Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Traffic crackdown kicks off


Drinking and driving target of holiday blitz

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Oxford Police Lt. Robert Holzworth (right) answers questions Tuesday about a plan to boost patrols to cut down on drunken drivers.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
HAMILTON - Beginning tonight, Butler County law enforcement officials are stepping up efforts to crack down on drunken drivers, speeders and other traffic violators as the holiday season kicks into gear.

Most Butler County police agencies are boosting enforcement - paid for by state grants - by putting at least one extra patrol car on the roads. In larger areas of the county such as West Chester Township, four extra patrols and a supervisor's car will "saturate" key arteries to nab drunken drivers.

"The traffic fatality count for Butler County now stands at 24, compared to 23 for all of last year," Merrill Barrick, manager of the Greater Hamilton Safety Council, said Tuesday.

"We want to urge motorists to slow down out there, don't drink and drive, make sure that they buckle up," she said.

The DUI crackdown gets under way as Butler police agencies announced this week they also have formed a countywide DUI task force that hits the streets tonight at 6 p.m. and will run on holidays through September 2003.

The Thanksgiving weekend enforcement blitz ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, but in some areas such as Fairfield Township, an extra patrol will remain on the streets for the next two weeks, Fairfield Township Chief Richard St. John said.

By Memorial Day weekend, as part of the countywide DUI task force, police also will set up checkpoints on holidays.

In Butler's last checkpoint - Sept. 30 in Hamilton - eight people were arrested for drunken driving and 73 seat belt violations were issued, Hamilton Police Officer Dave Crawford said.

"Eight DUI arrests at our September checkpoint is a great decrease from the DUI offenses we had in the early 1990s," Officer Crawford said, when more than 20 arrests were made at checkpoints. "If we didn't make any arrests, that would be great."

To help combat a statewide and countywide rise in DUI crashes, the Ohio Department of Public Safety has awarded a $127,473 grant to 12 Butler police agencies to join forces for increased DUI enforcement.

Three Butler police departments - New Miami, Ross Township and Seven Mile -- cannot participate in the task force because they do not have enough staff, said Lt. Bob Holzworth of the Oxford Police Department, who applied for the county's DUI grant.

The county had the seventh-highest number of DUI crashes in Ohio last year, state records show.

In 2001, there were 11 alcohol-related fatal crashes and 256 alcohol-related injury crashes, compared with four fatal crashes and 292 injury crashes in 2000, according to state records.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.




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