BY TOM HESTER SR.
The state Motor Vehicle Commission Wednesday began issuing what officials describe as the next generation of personal identification, an enhanced digital driver's license.
The license, which was fully implemented in all 39 MVC agencies, builds on the security first introduced in 2004 when the state initially issued a digital license. The new license, while similar in appearance to the old license, features more than 25 covert and overt features designed to reduce fraud and abuse through updated technology and enhanced security features that are known only to the MVC and law enforcement.
The new license is also considered to be materially-compliant under what are called REAL ID standards. The federal REAL ID Act of 2005 imposes certain security, authentication and issuance procedures for state driver licenses and state ID cards in order for them to be accepted for “official purposes.”
Mike Horan, an MVC spokesman, said some of the license's newer features include the background or "Guilloche" that is similar to that which is found in currency. He said there are various new holograms and overlays related to data and the card has a tamper-evident coating, which will permanently damage the card if someone attempts to alter it. "Quite simply, the card allows law enforcement to tell whether a license if real or fake," Horan said. "As for information, an expanded bard code allows more driver information to be imprinted and makes the data easier for law enforcement to read."
Following the completion of the MVC’s core computer system overhaul in late 2012, the MVC will begin to implement a new, secure central issuance process for all driver license renewals that should eliminate over 1 million visits to its agencies per year.
The task of central issuance will be aided by what officials describe as state-of-the-art facial recognition technology because it will give the MVC the flexibility it needs to investigate possible fraud before a “final” license is mailed to its recipient. The software used in the MVC’s new license issuance system enables agency personnel to take clear and accurate photos of each license applicant.
“The driver license is no longer a simple card that proves you are legally entitled to operate a motor vehicle,” MVC Chief Raymond P. Martinez said. “It is now the primary source of identification for most Americans and a source (breeder) document used for so many other pieces of identification.”
“This cutting edge form of identification is one more tool available to all levels of law enforcement to stay one step ahead of criminals,” state Attorney General Paula T. Dow said.
“While the old license is adequate, recent events remind us that we must remain vigilant and stay one step ahead of those criminals who would seek to perpetrate fraud and illegally obtain this valuable form of identification,” Martinez added.
“Strengthening document security remains a top priority for New Jersey's law enforcement and homeland security personnel," state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Director Charles B. McKenna said. "The arrival of the enhanced digital driver license will deter those who seek to fraudulently obtain a New Jersey driver license as part of their criminal activity, which may be connected to a domestic or international terrorism plot."
In the last decade, the MVC has implemented numerous security and fraud prevention measures to complement its digital license, including 6-point ID verification, security enhanced license plates and temporary registration tags and a comprehensive document fraud training program which even outside partners have taken advantage of over the years.
In 2010, the MVC conducted 340 criminal investigations that led to 278 arrests resulting in either completed or still-pending criminal prosecutions triggered by fraudulent documents and various fraud-related offenses and another 66 related to other offenses.
Last month, the attorney general and the State Police announced the culmination of two large-scale investigations that were the result of state agencies leveraging each other’s assets. The cooperative investigations — dubbed Operation Southern Drawn and Operation White Cloud — showed the direct relationship between the sale of fraudulent identification document, the sale of stolen cars, car jackings and the illegal sale of guns and drugs.