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N.C. Working To Tighten Restrictions On Getting Licenses

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DURHAM, N.C. — Homeland security is one of the big national and local political issues. North Carolina officials want to tighten restrictions to make sure people are using drivers licenses for the proper reasons.

Fernando Asta

had two driver's licenses under two different names. Until his capture on charges of attacking women, he eluded authorities for nearly three years. The illegal immigrant had two driver's licenses under two different names.

"That can be a problem at times. Certainly, in this case, we always try to look at that," said Maj. Phyllis Cooper, of the Duke University Police Department.

Because of mounting scrutiny after the events of Sept. 11, the

North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles

had to look at the problems of security gaps.

"Well, I don't know if there is such a thing as a foolproof system, but I think we're well on our way," state DMV Commissioner George Tatum said.

For years, the DMV accepted bogus identification documents. In 2001, Garner police stopped one woman, who was able to get seven different licenses. Since Operation Stop Fraud went into effect earlier this year, the state stopped recognizing various foreign papers they could not verify, like an ID issued by the Mexican Consulate.

Many driver's license examiners were trained to spot fake documents and the computer system was improved to cross-reference Social Security numbers.

"We have caught several people trying to commit fraud by using deceased individuals' Social Security numbers," Tatum said.

The changes, though, bring new challenges. DMV offices had to tighten security for fear criminals would break-in looking for ID information. In addition, officials claim various examiners have been offered bribes to look the other way.

"It's difficult staying above the curve of the criminal," Tatum said.

By the fall, the DMV plans to start issuing new licenses that are even harder for criminals to copy. However, the changes are all geared toward issuing new licenses. Officials do not yet have a comprehensive plan to go after criminals who have already gotten their licenses.


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