Oct 172002
 
Authors: Laura Standley

A new Jefferson County system in the planning stages would insist that merchants fingerprint all check users. Although Fort Collins does not have a similar law, Fort Collins Police Services has encouraged fingerprinting checks for years, according to Robert Brown, detective and certified fraud examiner.

However, the Jefferson County system differs from what FCPS encourages in one key area. In Jefferson County, there must be a fingerprint on the fraudulent check for the case to be investigated. If there is not a fingerprint, the case will not be investigated, said Troy Cooper, investigator for Westminster Police Department.

The Jefferson County system is modeled after one first created in Aurora seven years ago. A number of people in the Aurora area were lying to police officers about their identities when receiving tickets, said Sgt. Tim Genaro of the Aurora Police Department.

Genaro said when issuing a ticket, people would claim to have no identification with them. If they knew the name of someone who roughly looked like them, they were able to evade a ticket while someone uninvolved would receive one.

So people started getting charged with crimes they didn’t commit, Genaro said. Therefore, Aurora police began fingerprinting those without identification at the time of ticketing.

Genaro said APD then took the logical step, linking the same problem to businesses that weren’t consistently requesting identification from their costumers and encountering fraud problems.

APD just recently formalized their plan, including in it that they would not investigate check-fraud cases without a fingerprint.

“(Fingerprinting checks is) encouraged for all merchants. Most banks already use it,” Genaro said.

Genaro said many community members in Aurora have contacted him, concerned that this program reminds them of “Big Brother” government and intrusion into the private sector.

“We don’t check DMV records, only law enforcement records,” Genaro said.

Cooper added that the Westminster PD does not use fingerprints except for fraud purposes.

“It’s not a fingerprint to classify, we’re not keeping record unless it’s fraudulent,” Cooper said.

Another concern is that fingerprinting could cause long lines at the checkout counter, said Mike Drahota, a junior construction management major.

“I think they should just check IDs because fingerprinting everyone is a hassle,” Drahota said.

However, some CSU students think the plan might help consumers.

“I think it’s a good idea, because it’s another step toward breaking down the barriers of fraudulent acts and people that knowingly and willingly write bad checks,” said Sara Vaccariello, a sophomore open option seeking business major. “I think the real issue is how much freedom are we willing to give up for our protection?”

Brown said local banks and King Soopers stores in Fort Collins already fingerprint consumers using checks.

“(Fingerprinting) has already been instituted (in Fort Collins),” Brown said. “I encourage it to combat forgery.”

However, he added FCPS continues to investigate cases even if the check in question does not include a fingerprint.

-Edited by Vince Blaser and Becky Waddingham

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