DWI arrests up slightly during latest holiday crackdown, State Police say

Trooper cars are pictured at the State Police Trooper cars are pictured at the State Police headquarters in Pomona. (Feb. 15, 2012) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

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Drunken-driving arrests rose during the State Police's annual holiday season crackdown, authorities said Wednesday.

State Police made 538 arrests for drunken driving during the three-week effort, according to statistics released Wednesday. State Police made 526 DWI arrests across the state during the same crackdown a year earlier.

"Certainly, we're looking to see the numbers going down, not up," said Carole Sears, the president of the Westchester County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "So that's very discouraging."

State Police reported 12 fatal car crashes during the holiday season, though it's not clear how many involved alcohol or drugs.

Locally, State Police in Troop K, which covers Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Columbia counties, made 67 drunken-driving arrests and reported one fatal car crash.

That fatality occurred in Columbia County and was alcohol-related, said Maj. Michael Kopy, the commander of Troop K.

"Unfortunately, there are people who just won't heed our advice or warnings," Kopy said. Of his troopers' arrests, he said, "We were able to apprehend them before they caused serious injury or death."

State Police in Troop F, which includes Rockland, Orange, and Ulster counties, made 99 drunken-driving arrests. There were no fatal car wrecks in Troop F during the three-week crackdown.

Among those arrested was Town of Beekman Supervisor Matt Kennedy, who was charged Dec. 22 with misdemeanor drunken driving in Greene County after being stopped at a Town of Athens checkpoint set up by State Police and the Greene County Sheriff's Office.

State Police worked in combination with local police departments throughout the state to set up roving checkpoints.

Troop K set up "saturation" details, concentrating patrols in areas that had high numbers of bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, Kopy said last week.

State Police publicized their efforts before and during the crackdown -- which makes the rise in arrests even more troubling, Sears said.

"It's disheartening," she said. "The word was out there, and everyone knew about the effort."

In addition to the drunken-driving arrests, State Police ticketed more than 10,000 drivers across the state for excessive speed, not wearing a seat belt or failing to properly secure children in their cars, authorities said. Troop K had the most speeding infractions with 1,153, according to State Police statistics.

Using funds secured through grants from the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, State Police added 41 extra patrol units specifically to target drunken drivers.

Overall, 29 drunken-driving checkpoints were set up throughout the state, police said.

New York ranks 10th in the nation in drunken-driving infractions, according to MADD's most recent statistics.

"Drunken driving is one of the most selfish crimes you can commit because it is so easily prevented," Sears said. "Driving while drunk is putting innocent people at risk while you're behind the wheel of a two-ton weapon."

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