Patrols target Fox Cities drunken drivers
Federal funds fuel extra enforcement across state
By John Lee
Post-Crescent staff writer
With the end of summer traditionally a time of increased traffic fatalities, Fox Cities police agencies are gearing up a crackdown on drunken driving through Labor Day.
The Wisconsin State Patrol, Menasha Police Department and Grand Chute Police Department are among the agencies that will use federal funds from Friday through Sept. 3 for a "Drunk Driving — Over the Limit. Under Arrest" campaign.
They don't mind giving motorists advance warning that patrols on overtime will be working area streets and highways.
Grand Chute Police Chief Ed Kopp said warning the public ahead of time, and making sure the patrols are visible, are part of the education and enforcement effort.
"Our goal is also to let the public know and say 'Pay attention to what you're doing,'" he said. "We are certainly not going to catch every speeder tomorrow afternoon on College Avenue with a saturation patrol, but if we can get them to slow down, that helps."
A $20,000 grant is helping pay some of the costs of extra patrols in Grand Chute as well as replacing a laser speed radar. The grant pays for 464 hours of overtime, Kopp said.
George Silverwood, law enforcement liaison with the state Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Safety (BOTS), said nine police agencies in the Fox Valley, and just over 300 statewide, will participate in the crackdown.
He said the special enforcements are important since the percentage of fatal crashes involving alcohol has not dropped in the last couple of decades, even though the number of deaths has gone down.
"Fatalities that involve alcohol still have not come down that much," he said. "That and seat belts are the main things."
Appleton police Sgt. Carlos delPlaine said his department would do the crackdown even without a grant from BOTS this year.
"We take drunk driving seriously and it's an important thing, especially with our downtown entertainment district," he said. "Pretty much for us, if it moves and gives us a reason to, we stop it."
State grants for enforcement normally go to agencies with high crash rates, and delPlaine said the APD doesn't have any qualms about participating without a state check.
"It's a worthwhile project, first of all," he said. "BOTS doesn't have enough money to hand out.
Winnebago County sheriff's Capt. John Matz said his department also would do the enforcement without a grant.
"We will continue our aggressive approach to drunk driving" with regular patrols, he said.
Menasha police officer Matt Albrecht said the department hopes the visibility of patrols — and advanced notice to motorists — gets people to find designated drivers, take public transportation, call a taxi or notify a friend if they've had too much to drink.
"We hope that this crackdown will voluntarily deter people from driving while impaired," he said.
"But if they choose to threaten the safety of others by getting behind the wheel while impaired, we're fully prepared to get them off the road by arresting them."
The program to get drunks off the streets means there are no second chances, said Menasha police Lt. Tim Styka.
"When we stop a drunken driver, we don't give warnings or accept excuses. It doesn't matter if you're driving a pickup, a minivan or a motorcycle. And it doesn't matter if you're within a block of your house. If you're over the limit, you'll be arrested."
That, he said, means it costs you a lot of money for fines, court costs, increased insurance and other costs, and also can result in loss of drivers license and impounding of the vehicle.
John Lee: 920-993-1000, ext. 362, or firstname.lastname@example.org