Local News

Roanoke Rapids Battling Back Against Counterfeiters

Posted June 12, 2003 5:00 a.m. EDT

— As technology improves, it makes it easier for thieves to make fake money look real. But one town is battling back with its own technology.

On a busy day, at just about any corner store, bad money can slip through.

"If it's an $100 bill, if it's counterfeit, they keep it and you're out $100. That's tough on a lot of merchants, including myself," said Gene Minton, of DrugCo Pharmacy.

Roanoke Rapids is fighting back through a new partnership between businesses and the police called "Cop Alert." In the program, any bad bills that show up are copied and e-mailed to merchants as a warning.

"They're able to print that out and if they're a retail business, for instance, they're able to have a copy of that counterfeit bill right there by the cash register," said Chief Greg Lawson, of the Roanoke Rapids Police Department.

"It goes through the chamber's e-mail system, and we know about it the same day," Minton said.

The e-mails include descriptions of suspected counterfeiters and other information that could keep new bills off the street.

Right now, the Cop Alert e-mail goes to about 100 businesses. The police say they are already leading them to suspects, and there's no telling how much bad money has been sent away.

"If we make a business more aware of what the bills are that are out there, it helps them save the dollars which, in turn, saves the customers money as well," said Brenda Blackburn, of the Chamber of Commerce.

The program is just a few months old and costs almost nothing. Roanoke Rapids police say the idea came from a recent brainstorming session with business leaders. If the program continues to go well, it may be extended to businesses outside the city.