DA: DWI Task Force adding checkpoints this summer

Riverhead Police Chief David Hergemiller (left) joined SCDA Thomas Spota at Tuesday's press conference to unveil a plan to combact drunken drivers. (Credit: Carrie Miller)
Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller (left) joined SCDA Thomas Spota at Tuesday’s press conference to unveil a plan to combat drunken drivers. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

East End law enforcement agencies joined Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota Tuesday afternoon to unveil a plan to bolster sobriety checkpoints on land and at sea this summer.

The East End DWI Task Force will conduct additional checkpoints aimed at cracking down on drunken an drug impaired drivers and boaters, Mr. Spota announced during a press conference at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Hampton Bays.

“The East End DWI Task Force is the most cost effective way to deal with the menace of drunk and drugged drivers,” Mr. Spota said.

The Task Force is made up of members of local town and village police departments, county and state police, sheriff’s deputies, county parks police and U.S. Coast Guard personnel.

Danielle Rella, a spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, presented the Task Force with two portable breathalyzer testing kits to aid in their effort. She asked that “while [drivers are] enjoying their summer, that they do it responsibly and be safe out there.”

Ms. Rella’s brother, Nassau police officer Ken Baribault, suffered permanent brain damage and partial paralysis after his patrol car was hit by a drunken driver on Long Island Expressway in Plainview in 2008.

Mr. Spota said county Sheriff and U.S. Coast Guard vessels will be used to conduct BWI patrols on the north and south sides of the Shinnecock Canal, as well as in Greenport Harbor and the Shelter Island area.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said the assistance of other departments during a patrol last year allowed authorities to stop 80 vessels in a single day in Greenport Harbor. He was happy to say it didn’t result in any arrests.

“It was a positive experience,” he said. “I think people are being a bit more responsible,” adding that despite the results, he still believes there is an issue with drunken boaters in North Fork waters.

He said because of limited personnel, the program allows them to have about 15 enforcement officers at any given checkpoint, rather than just five from one department.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said the initiative was started two weeks ago. Checkpoints in Riverhead Town already netting six DWI and drug related arrests, he said.

“To echo Ms. Rella, we want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable summer,” he said.

Last year, the DWI Task Force made about 360 drunken driving arrests across East End towns, Mr. Spota said.

The East End DWI Task Force is funded by the district attorney’s office and STOP DWI office, which uses fines and bail monies collected from alcohol related traffic convictions.

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