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  • Writer's picturetatum van dam

fake ids: south central la's most pressing issue

Are fake IDs really South Central’s most pressing issue?

On Friday, some friends and I were hosting a music event at a bar near campus (might I add -- it was our final project for a class). The basis of our event was pretty simple: three DJs, one bar, and a whole bunch of music lovers dancing to some tunes. With less than twenty-four hours to market the event and a grand total of thirty-three Facebook invite responses, we got a turn out similar to what we expected: a few good friends looking to have a good time by showing support to their friends who were performing. What we did not expect were the four undercover cops using our event to meet their last-minute quotas.

Like any other bar near a college campus, the venue we hosted our event at was equipped with a security guard and a scanner that deemed the fate of one’s personal identification by labeling it as "accepted" or "denied". The security guard, regardless of his machine, was heavily questioning any and every ID that was handed to him, even if it was real. It ended up being for a valid reason. About an hour into our event, four average looking middle aged men flashed their badges to the security guard as if he would have otherwise assumed they were under twenty-one, strutted oh-so unobtrusively into the venue, and returned shortly after with a girl who had been enjoying her night up until that point.

The four middle aged men appeared to be undercover cops, and they were nothing short of loud and proud (think: 21 Jump Street IRL). They questioned the girl about her ID for nearly twenty minutes and the power dynamic hurt to watch; four grown men ganging up on one girl. The girl was not belligerently drunk, nor was she lashing out at the cops; however, the cops were adamant on mansplaining the crime she allegedly committed whilst taking her ID and replacing it with a citation and a court date. When the security guard asked the cops for the girl’s ID, they audibly proclaimed that they wanted to keep it as their evidence. Evidence for what? To prove that you were out busting a girl trying to dance to some music while some other girl is getting sexually assaulted on the opposite side of campus? Alright then, Mr. Cop.

The cops visibly received a high off of busting this girl. While her ID may or may not have been a fake one, they stood in a circle holding two flashlights each as they pointed out which parts of it might have been fabricated. Dude, it’s the photo. You see that photo? Photoshop. Bro, it’s photoshop. I can count the pixels with my fingers. The poor girl continued to stand in silence adjacent to them as the inaccuracies of her ID were repeatedly pointed out.

After the cops successfully ruined a college student’s Friday night out, they hopped into their inconspicuous van that had been parked immediately outside of the bar and proceeded to drive into the abyss. The security guard pointed out that he noticed the cops were there which is why he was being extra strict with each ID presented to him. He told us they [the cops] camp in their car and wait for people to walk into the bar just so they can run in and catch the student immediately after -- much similar to cops who hide on certain streets waiting for someone to speed by so they can ticket them. This whole concept is insane to me. Shouldn’t they try and stop the issue from happening to begin with instead of treating it like a game?

I mean, it’s college. It’s expected. Students are going to be consuming alcohol, and students who are not of age might find ways to get around it. While I am not condoning the fact that people are putting themselves at risk by using a fake ID or consuming alcohol underage, I do not think that this is the main issue that undercover cops should put their attention on.

As a student at the University of Southern California, emails are sent out whenever a crime is reported to DPS (the Department of Public Safety). Looking through my alerts from the last month or-so, DPS has reported incidents of students getting their phones stolen, sexual battery, and burglary. I can recall one incident of a student being robbed at gunpoint. In 2016, USC Annenberg Media reported the amount of crime that occurs near campus within a month long period:

“During the 28-day time period, 11 assaults and 8 robberies were reported in the vicinity of the USC campus.”

Furthermore, a recent survey on sexual assault found that 1 in 3 girls at USC have been sexually assaulted on campus. This is only regarding the victims who completed the survey.

USC students are located in South Central Los Angeles, a part of Los Angeles known to be dangerous, and there are accounts of students being held at gunpoint, robbed, and sexually assaulted. I can’t help but wonder why we care more about a near-twenty one year old girl sitting on a couch inside of a venue than we do about assault.

I wonder if these statistics would differ if those undercover cops were to be sent to a fraternity party, or down Vermont avenue, or anywhere other than a bar hosting around twenty patrons who are there predominantly for the music -- not the drinks.

This is one of many reasons why the drinking age in America should be lowered. I could write a whole other article on that, but I will spare you of another highly opinionated read. I find it so trivial that incidents like these are the ones that have the eye of the people whose job is to keep the general public “safe”. Perhaps those four undercover cops should do something about the real crime in and around campus because I can genuinely say that I do not feel safe here. There has not been one time I have ever walked home from campus without a lingering fear that I might get robbed or assaulted.

I acknowledge that using a fake ID is a crime; however, other crimes should take precedent, given the area that USC is situated in.

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Zach Fleisher
Zach Fleisher
Nov 27, 2019

I like how your blog post is extremely personal and has a story built into it–making for an easy and interesting read. I think you are completely correct that the police love to bust underage drinking and take it as a personal victory. It frustrates all of us. However, I am not surprised because those individuals willing to wait in vehicles until people “mess up” and then get those “messed up” kids in trouble are the people who are infatuated with rules. In my opinion, the cops looking and eagerly waiting for you to break the law are the same type of professors that want you to fail. I have no respect for that type of mindset, and it definitely…


Mason Robinson
Mason Robinson
Nov 27, 2019

It's wild to think that LA police would use four cops to just stake out Banditos. I feel like those resources could best be used elsewhere. It's a given that college students are going to have fake IDs, and generally, most are never gonna have to suffer for it. Why just randomly seek out to bust a few students here and there just to ruin someone's night?

LA is better off focusing the city's real problems.


Nov 26, 2019

In many college towns the use of fake IDs is completely normal. This is the case for USC. Every single person I know has had a fake ID at least once (usually multiple times). This is because it is the norm, you need one to feel cool and go out with your friends, and you need one to participate in the drinking culture that is accompanied by going to college. I completely agree with you that other crimes should take precedence over the use of fake IDs, especially in a place like South Central, it feels as if cops are wasting their time busting college students for a minor crime and not stopping other, maybe more important, crimes that ar…


Nov 13, 2019

This is a really relevant topic that is also very controversial. As you addressed, on one hand it is against the law to have a fake id and drink alcohol under the age of 21, even if it is a stupid law. I agree with you completely that this is a stupid law for a number of reasons, including the ones you listed, but also because making the drinking age 21 doesn't stop underage people, who can just get alcohol from their friends at college, from drinking. I also think it makes kids want to drink more because they are doing what they are told not to and because when they get to college and are away from their parents…

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