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England Starts Fingerprinting Drinkers 552

Posted by Zonk
from the you-are-not-free-to-drink-the-beer dept.
dptalia writes "In an effort to reduce alcohol related violence, England is rolling out mandatory fingerprinting of all pub patrons. If a pub owner refuses to comply with the new system, and fails to show 'considerable' reductions in alcohol-related crimes, they will lose their license. Supposedly the town that piloted this program had a 48% reduction in alcohol-related crime." From the article: "Offenders can be banned from one pub or all of them for a specified time - usually a period of months - by a committee of landlords and police called Pub Watch. Their offenses are recorded against their names in the fingerprint system. Bradburn noted the system had a 'psychological effect' on offenders."
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England Starts Fingerprinting Drinkers

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  • Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shanoyu (975) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @12:39AM (#16533684)
    In the united states we also have a system of reducing the effects of alcohol related violence. We call it prison.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by aegzorz (1014757)
      Nothing like a little torture in an American prison to sober you up!
      • Nothing like a little torture in an American prison to sober you up!

        Are you talking about Guantanamo Bay, or just federal pound-me-in-the-ass prisons in general?

    • by malvidin (951569)
      And how well is that working? I don't know, but I'm sure someone will tell us. Or at least give us their opinion.
      • by Shanoyu (975) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @12:59AM (#16533798)
        Pretty good. It's been working for quite some time really. I don't really know how someone can get to be so smashed and out of control that you don't want to serve them liquor and simultaneously they somehow don't break any other law except perhaps public intoxication. Clearly British drunks have reached a level of uncanny and clever shenanniganism that a finger print system is simply no match for.
        • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:58AM (#16534634) Journal
          Alcoholics are like herion addicts, they care about little else except where the next "hit" will come from.

          "I don't really know how someone can get to be so smashed and out of control that you don't want to serve them liquor and simultaneously they somehow don't break any other law except perhaps public intoxication."

          Commonly known as a "happy drunk", they are an entirely different breed to the violent alcoholic. Here in Oz and I think also in UK, the law states you can't serve someone who is already "intoxicated", they don't have to be "out of control" just obviously pissed.

          Someone who is totally pissed is not much trouble in the violence dept, it's the ones that are loud, aggressive and still standing that cause problems, they are certainly cognicent enough to remember they gave their prints and will think about their next drink!
    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by technicalandsocial (940581) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @01:20AM (#16533920)
      Alcohol, and all drugs, should be treated as the health issue they are, not a criminal issue. Violence on the other hand should be given far more severe penalities for any and all violent offences. We're all way to forgiving to violent crimes, we need a real deterrent.
      As TFA states, domestic violence had risen during their trial period. Keeping violence behind closed doors is helping no one.
    • Re:Interesting. (Score:4, Informative)

      by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @04:34AM (#16534790)
      The UK imprisons a greater percentage of it's population than any other European country. And yet it has more alcohol related crime than all the others too. So prison doesn't appear to be a great fix.
    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @05:48AM (#16535210) Homepage Journal
      In the united states we also have a system of reducing the effects of alcohol related violence. We call it prison.

      And that is why you're one of the countries in the world with the highest percentage of your population in prison, surpassing many oppressive dictatorships. Despite that you still have some of the highest crime rates in the world too...

      Doesn't look like it's working too well.

      • actually THE highest (Score:5, Informative)

        by lavaface (685630) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:15AM (#16535968) Homepage
        The U.S> has the largest prison population (over 2 million) and the highest rate of prisoners per capita at 715 per 100,000. source: NationMaster [nationmaster.com]
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by timeOday (582209)
          Thanks, good cite. The US imprisonment rate is alarming.

          And on the other hand, look at the bottom of the list... 10 nations with 0 imprisonments per 100,000 people!? How can that be? I am surprised to see Cuba, UAE, and Egypt there, I think of those as civilized nations. Do they have high execution rates? Do they just chop off your hand and set your free? Or do they simply let everybody run wild?

    • Statistics!?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sbaker (47485) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:35AM (#16536054) Homepage
      Hold on - the linked article says that this scheme is proven to work because in the Yeoville area alcohol related violence had dropped 48% over the trial period. It then went on to say that over that eight month period there were only TWO major incidents. So if there had been (say) four major incidents over the preceeding eight months - which reduced to two during the trial - that would have been a 50% reduction.

      (Note that one of those two major incidents wasn't even anything to do with pubs - some kids were at an under-18's disco and obtained alcohol "somewhere else" - it shouldn't even have been counted).

      I have two observations:

      Firstly: I would submit that whether there were two or four major incidents over a period of eight months is not a statistically valid sample. Especially because the preceeding 8 months would have included Xmas and New Year - both notable occasions for serious drunkenness. No competent statistician or conductor of scientific tests would sign up to these conclusions from such a ridiculously small sample - so we should either conclude that they are invalid - or that they were actually counting something else...which leads me to:

      Secondly: For a number like '48%' to have come about, we cannot be measuring a reduction from four to two major crimes - that would be a 50% reduction. This MUST have been taken over a vastly larger sample of incidents. We must conclude then that they are not talking about 'major' incidents such as the two described (a sexual attack in the toilets and a fight between two kids that erupted into a major street brawl). So what this fingerprinting exercise is all about is reducing MINOR incidents.

      So let's call this what it is. It's not about cutting down on serious offences - it's about reducing MINOR offences by banning people from pubs who happen to have lost their tempers or done any of the usual things that drunk people tend to do.

      Is that worth the loss of privacy that this entails?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by schof (260057)

        Secondly: For a number like '48%' to have come about, we cannot be measuring a reduction from four to two major crimes - that would be a 50% reduction. This MUST have been taken over a vastly larger sample of incidents. We must conclude then that they are not talking about 'major' incidents such as the two described (a sexual attack in the toilets and a fight between two kids that erupted into a major street brawl). So what this fingerprinting exercise is all about is reducing MINOR incidents.

        So let's ca

      • Where does it end? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Reziac (43301) *
        And I'm wondering... isn't the extreme extrapolation of this, oh, say, requiring all stores to fingerprint shoppers, to cut down on the number of shoplifters??

  • by Anonymous Coward
    how many drunk pub patrons upon being asked for their fingerprints will pull down their pants and shout "Fingerprint this?"
  • Law (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @12:50AM (#16533756)
    Law! The cure to society's failures! That's what laws are for.

    Laws built civilization, at reduced price.

    Got a problem with something, just get together with some of your friends and write a law against it.
    No need to address systemic issues. No need to worry about whether it's harmful to individuals. Human rights? But what about civilization? Laws are above you and me they're for the greater good.
    Can I get a law. Cheers to that ol' chap Hammurabi. What greater gift to pass on to future generations than a bunch of laws? Better than trying to raise 'em up with values.
    • by creimer (824291)
      Law! The cure to society's failures! That's what laws are for.

      I'm sure the Romans thought the same thing before their empire went under from trying to fingerprint all those drunken barbarians.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @12:51AM (#16533764)
    I am wondering how this will affect non-citizens of England, will U.S. or foreign visitors need to be fingerprinted as well and if so, that means that our fingerprints are in a foreign system, I am wondering how this info will be used, since the U.S. has demanded that the UK and all EU countries give the U.S. passenger data, will this info be used as a counter tactic to stop this practice.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @01:12AM (#16533882)
      You do realise that all visitors to the US are fingerprinted on arrival at the airport?
    • by Instine (963303) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:39AM (#16535454)
      I don't know. What I do know is that on a visit to the US my 5 year old had her retina scanned. It is not hypocritical for me to find this aborant and yet be interrested to see the out come of such an experiment as described in the OP. For one my 5 yearold was not intoxicated. Secondly she was a 5 year old. Thirdly she was in the care and custardy of a guardian, whose retina you can scan. It means I won't visit the US again, but feel free to scan adult retinas.

      But a 5 yearold! (I know, I know - think of the...). But seriously, fingerprinting an adult before they consume an intoxicant proven to lead to violence (or rather increase the likelyhood thereof) is one thing. Even watching us via CCTV, is not an entirely bad thing. It has reduced violent crime. But the insane tactics being touted in the States (ID cards, agents visiting you for joking about killing the Pres on the internet, retina scans for 5 year olds, asking me to state what my political affiliations are BEFORE I enter the country...) If you can't see the difference between these then you are not very far sighted, and/or you don't know a great deal of about the practices already in place in the States, and how eerily they compare to those used by the Nazis, to control their own population. Why do people in Europe winge on about the Nazis, because they made death factories. They industrialized murder. What more reason do you want? And they couldn't have done it without ID cards, and a terrified populous. CCTV actually makes me safer, and feel safer. ID cards do not. Fingerprints are an invasion of my privacy, but so is someone taking my photo. You going to ban that in the name of personal freedom?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by RyoShin (610051)

        But the insane tactics being touted in the States ([...], agents visiting you for joking about killing the Pres on the internet, [...]

        I'm not sure how if there's a comparable department in the UK, but the main focus of the US Secret Service is to protect those they've been assigned to, first and foremost the President. Yes, they also have jurisdiction over money counterfiting, seeing as they are a police force under the Secretary of Treasury, but that's a little less common, or at least reported such.

        So you

  • by Salvance (1014001) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @12:55AM (#16533774) Homepage Journal
    In all seriousness, I wonder how many alcoholics and repeat drunk driving offenders will look for ways to skirt the system? If employed nationwide, a cottage industry of fingerprint concealment/modification techniques could pop up that eventually could negatively impact other areas of crime prevention.

    Also, how are they going to prevent people from drinking themselves into a stupor at a friend's home then getting in the car? In the end, this could be a pretty significant blow for the bars and restaurants, kind of like the smoking ban in some U.S. cities.
    • by AgNO3 (878843) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @01:22AM (#16533936) Homepage
      I would love to see the numbers for how no smoking has hurt restaurants. This is nothing like that. People will start making tight fitting latex finger print tips in 3 2 1.........
      • by Bun (34387) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:05AM (#16534134)
        I don't know about the cities in the 'States where it was implemented, but in Vancouver, BC, after a short period (less than 6 months) where business declined, patronage of bars and restaurants actually increased to higher than original levels. This is because the majority of people (~80%) in Vancouver don't smoke, and a lot of people were avoiding these places because of all the smoke in the air. I have to say, it's a real pleasure to have a beer in a pub and not go home smelling like an ashtray.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @12:56AM (#16533776)
    So for the English out there, who does this law really apply to? I've been to London a few times and enjoy a good pub lunch, without drinking - am I still going to be printed in that case? Is it all electronic scans (the article made it sound as if it were)?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cowbutt (21077)
      So for the English out there, who does this law really apply to? I've been to London a few times and enjoy a good pub lunch, without drinking - am I still going to be printed in that case?

      Probably not, unless you happen to pick a pub which is notorious for alcohol-fuelled violence in the evenings. Usually, such establishments have a negative correlation with serving decent food and beer, so I doubt either of us will be personally affected by this, at least initially. Definitely something to keep an eye on

    • by fantomas (94850) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:03AM (#16534400)
      Answer: there is no law that requires you to be finger printed if you want a pint. There is no government roll out of fingerprint checking before you can have a pint.

      Slashdot is enjoying a nice hyped up headline, egged on by The Reg singing it up. Major towns and cities? one rural backwater population 40,000. We've had bigger towns voting for monkeys as their town mayor (Hull, go have a read). Have a sip of that nice warm beer and calm down :-)

      Reading TFA, one town has trialed a system. Little Britain jokes aside, we have more than half a dozen towns here :-)

      So we do have a law, the "Crime and Disorder Act (1998)" which requires town councils to reduce drunken disorder. One district council (in Yeovil, a nice little country place in rural Somerset, population 40,000) has decided the way to do this is to have fingerprint recognition, it's putting the pressure on pubs to install this system. It's using money from a government fund "Safer, Stronger Communities" through the Department for Communities and Local Government's Local Area Agreements. The government funder have already noted that its a local decision, not theirs, on how local town councils spend the money.

      This "rollout" the article speaks of consists of ten pubs in a neighbouring small town considering it. Trust me, we have more than eleven pubs in the UK...

      A couple of police forces elsewhere have "shown an interest" which suggests to me somebody's phoned up to ask how its doing. The district council representative (who you'd expect to be positive and not say "well we really wasted our taxpayers money on that one") has said the Home Office is considering trials in more towns (what does this mean? 5 pubs in each place?) - but the Home Office later in the article denies it decides how the budget is spent.

      Bouncers do ask for ID for people they think are underage (under 18) in some pubs. But only those folks. I was amused when in the USA to be with a silver haired retired friend who was asked for his ID as well. I think he was quite amused and pleased that they were checking him in case he was under 21....

      • by InfoHighwayRoadkill (454730) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @04:01AM (#16534652) Homepage

        I actually live just down the road from Yeovil. (or YeoVile). An aquiantance actually runs the main firm of bouncers in the town. He says that the fingerprint scanners started off in one of the clubs in town more or less as the owner is a gadget freak and just got a MS keyboard with fingerprint scanner. The club owner used it to get some free publicity in the local press. The regional press and tv picked it up and finally the story was on the main bbc news a few months ago. Governement has seen it and thought "Hang on a minute..."

        Actually having your right index finger print taken in the clubs closed, non-government affilitated system is optional even in the bar that started it. YeoVile is a small town and the bouncers know all the main troublemakers personally by now. If someone comes in from out of town looking for trouble of course no system is going to stop them.

        So all of this started out as a cheap publicity stunt by the owner of a small club in a small town and has got people the British government involved and now people all round the world are commenting on it... the guy must be laughing his head off.

    • by cliffski (65094) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:46AM (#16534582) Homepage
      I'm English. The story is being blown out of all proportion. It sounds like maybe a dozen pubs in 3 or 4 towns in the whole country MAY be introducing it. London isn't even mentioned.
      The chances of your average British pub introducing this for a lunchtme drink are absolutely ZERO. Theres a pub in the UK practically every 10 paces. Any law that would make it harder for a British person to have a pint in his pub would go down about as well as a law to ban firearms in the US.
      It's a total non story.
  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @12:59AM (#16533794) Homepage
    Bradburn noted the system had a 'psychological effect' on offenders.

    No doubt it has psychologican effects on everyone. You know, that creepy feeling you get when you're being watched.
  • Merriam-Webster defines fascism as "a political philosophy, movement, or regime ... that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition".[3] Two particular definitions reflect the fact that Fascism has always arisen from an extreme right-wing ideology: (1) "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typic

  • by zymurgy_cat (627260) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @01:06AM (#16533840) Homepage
    This law has a major loophole. People without hands can visit any pub they like! I'm certain that we'll soon see an increase in alcohol-related violence by people with artificial hands, hooks, stumps, and the like.

    Please, please, won't someone think of the children?!?! We need to implement alternative ID methods. Perhaps something like RFID chips implanted in artificial hands. We should also consider banning artificial limbs, hooks, and the like so these people cannot drink excessively and threaten our children. If we save the life of only one child, it will be worth it.
  • This is actually part of a fantastically clever campaign to come up with laws that finally push the British Public to the point where they demand major roll-backs of the power of their government! Trouble is, every time we think we have something that they just won't put up with, they do!

    -jcr
  • Never fear, when you grow up, you can tell your children about all your fond experiences drinking with your Big Brother.
  • Great. This will go with the 50 billion cameras they have watching everyone. No doubt soon to be joined by the ever popular house-to-house public opinion polls (answer "yes" or "no", I suggest "yes" unless you want your head nailed to the wardrobe).

  • I'm curious - in the US, what privacy do we have in public? I know there's unreasonable search and seizure - but considering that fingerprints are something you leave behind on everything you touch anyways (unless you wear gloves or use a sanding machine - ouch!) so are they not public? Is taking a picture of someone's finger prints any different than taking a picture of their face w/ a security camera?
  • The real problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iendedi (687301) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @01:38AM (#16534018) Journal
    The real problem with any system that tracks behavior, especially vice-like behavior, is that it is only a matter of time before powerful interests secure access to that data. Fingerprint drinkers today, in the hands of insurance companies tomorrow. Fingerprint pub-crawlers today, in the hands of employment agencies tomorrow. Fingerprint drunks today, in the hands of law-enforcement and government interests tomorrow.

    Abuse slowly unfolds, it does not spring into existance overnight. Almost everything that is seriously broken in America started off as an innocent (often temporary) stopgap measure to correct some issue of the day but then slowly grew, was hijacked by various interests and warped into an aberration.

    I am personally against any tracking of human beings at all and I could give a god damned about the whinning of law enforcement. The simple fact is that once such data is available to law enforcement, it is also available to criminals and interests that are not working for my benefit and since I am a law abiding citizen, there is absolutely no upside for me - only increased scrutiny and loss of privacy. Only the stupidest of criminals will expose themselves through these channels anyway. The smart criminals belong to syndicates that fscking include law enforcement (and therefore have access to this *data* for nefarious purposes).

    Reject tracking, profiling and surveillance in all it's guises. Demand court issued warrants for private data. Retain your rights and your personal security.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mpe (36238)
      Abuse slowly unfolds, it does not spring into existance overnight. Almost everything that is seriously broken in America started off as an innocent (often temporary) stopgap measure to correct some issue of the day but then slowly grew, was hijacked by various interests and warped into an aberration.

      It certainly dosn't help matters that the US lacks the most basic of data protection laws.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@ l y n x.bc.ca> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @01:43AM (#16534038) Journal

    It mentions "alchohol-related crimes", but it seems to me that the only time you ever actually know that any particular crime was genuinely alchohol related is if you already know who the person that did it was, and it's only then that you realize that they are under the influence of alchohol. What do you need fingerprints taken beforehand for when every single time you'd be able to pin a crime on alchohol consumption you have the guilty party in custody anyways?

    About the only good this might do is produce a sort of "scare tactic" effect, that might initially incline people to behave better, but I don't see this making a significant difference in the long run.

  • Why not brand them? Or put a tattoo on their foreheads?
  • For a second I'm going to ignore that the government is collecting fingerprints on everyone. Why is this law so bad? All it does is:
    * Allow for criminals who've willingly consumed alcohol to be caught quicker in certain circumstances.
    * Force bars to stop serving alcohol to people who habitually break the law when drunk
    * Allow for witnesses necessary in solving a crime to be found easier.

    These are all bad things why?

    I know, I know. Then we move onto the fact that the government is collecting finger prints. B
  • Having been denied entry to london pubs, 48% of alcoholic criminals are now committing crimes sober.
  • From the article:
    Yeovil is to become the first town in Britain to install "biometric" fingerprint scanners in pubs and clubs that will instantly identify potential troublemakers.
    Thinking about how easy these scanners are to fool, someone should create a fingerprint patch and supply a copy to everyone in town. It'll look like one guy goes drinking way too much. It'd be even better if the finger print was of some semi-important or visible offical who's in favor of this legislation. I'm thinking about how the Mythbusters people lifted a fingerprint from a can and used that to create a fake fingerprint to fool a scanner.
  • by sbaker (47485) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:13AM (#16535960) Homepage
    I was watching the movie "V for Vendetta" again last night - as a graphic novel that was written in 1982 it's eerily predictive. For a movie made two years ago, it's practically a documentary.

    I'm a Brit who has been living in the USA for the past 13 years and it's hard to say which is more like the movie. Britain with more spycams per person than anywhere else on earth - and soon you can't even have a beer without being fingerprinted! Or perhaps it is the USA in which the faceless secret police can monitor what books you check out from the library, bug your phone without judicial oversight and swoop down on you, merely accuse you of being a terrorist (no proof required) and on that pretext lock you up, torture you, ship you off to god-knows what hell-hole - and all without any right of trial or appeal?

    Hmmm - hard call. Between the two countries - it's difficult to say which comes closest to the nightmare that V opposes in the movie. As he says: If you want to know whose fault this is - just look in the mirror.

    Our own fear of statistically insignificant terrorist violence (or avian flu or WMD or drunk drivers or...you name it) induces progressively higher tolerance for the State to ratchet down the human rights of the entire population. There will come a point when we realise that this has been a terrible mistake - but will we do that before or after the point where we can no longer reverse it's effects?

    Better get that bulk order for Guy Fawkes masks in before the rush. Amazon have them for $5.99.

    • by Mark Hood (1630) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:56AM (#16536994) Homepage
      No, no no - I'm sick of people misinterpreting the new laws in the US in this way:

      merely accuse you of being a terrorist (no proof required) and on that pretext lock you up, torture you, ship you off to god-knows what hell-hole - and all without any right of trial or appeal?

      They have to accuse you, lock you up, ship you off to god-knows what hell-hole, and ONLY THEN can they torture you.

      Please stop spreading these malicious slanders, or the terrorists win.

      Mark

      PS Please check your irony-meter before moderating this post, thank you.
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:00AM (#16536198) Homepage

    We have all kinds of tough new drunk driving enforcement over here, too. Though thankfully short of fingerprinting people going into clubs. The net effect is people who are problem drinkers drink anyway and responsible people, many of whom don't like the police gettin' up in their business, stay home. Instead we'll have private parties, where our guests can stay the night. Just like I'm guessing a lot of people will skip their pint at the pub because being fingerprinted seems sort of creepy.

    You might think that's a responsible solution and you'd be right. The downside is for people trying to run a business. The more enforcement, the more responsible people stay home. It's getting to the point we don't go out on weekends at all. Who wants to run the road block gauntlet just to go out to eat and dancing for a couple hours?

    More enforcement is always easy from a political point of view. It's a feel good thing to do that doesn't really work, but since when do results matter in political solutions? I'm not sure there are any easy answers. But I can say for sure, the tougher you get on enforcement, the more your business and entertainment district is going to suffer.

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