New ID technology at Hemsby store

A family-run store in Hemsby has become the first retailer in Norfolk to give the thumbs-up to a simple machine designed to fight under-age drinking and stop awkward confrontations at the counter.

A family-run store in Hemsby has become the first retailer in Norfolk to give the thumbs-up to a simple machine designed to fight under-age drinking and stop awkward confrontations at the counter.

Now adult customers blessed with youthful looks will be saved the bother of constantly having to prove their age when they buy alcohol in the Spar shop.

After proving they are 18 on their first visit by showing their passport or driving licence, their fingerprint can be quickly stored on the �500 OK ID machine. On subsequent visits they need only press their thumb on the machine, which responds with a “thank you” if it has been recognised.

Peter Calnon, 41, who has run the Black Street shop with his wife Simone, 43, since 1993, said: “It was a Spar retailer up north who sourced this product from the manufacturer and thought it was fantastic.

“Spar got involved and negotiated a reduced price for the machine, putting it out as an option for all its shops.”

Mr Calnon, whose daughter Leah, 15, helps at the shop, said to minimise the risk of selling alcohol to under-18s, it was their policy to challenge anyone who looked younger than 25.

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“Sometimes it can lead to awkward moments. Regular customers might expect to be remembered and stop bringing ID. They might say, 'I showed you ID yesterday' but the person serving them might not be sure,” he said.

“Anything like this that supports staff and reduces the chance of a mistake has got to be a good thing.”

The couple, who are also installing a machine in their store in nearby Ormesby, agreed it would help to reduce queues in the busy summer months.

Insp Nathan Clark, of Norfolk police, who became the first volunteer to have his age checked and fingerprint taken, said: “We don't suffer much crime and disorder around the village, but this will help us prevent young people getting involved in the sort of alcohol-related incidents we might get on a Friday or Saturday night.

“The machine is also a fantastic way of cutting the risk of confrontation in shops and threats to staff.”

Insp Clark, who stressed the fingerprints could not be accessed by police so there were no worries about data protection, is keen to see such technology rolled out across the county. He will be suggesting to other safer neighbourhood teams that they might like to approach businesses in their area.

He said he would also be including information on the Spar initiative in a welcome pack sent to local holiday camps, so tourists could take advantage of it.