Nassau County authorities are cracking down on bars and restaurants that serve intoxicated drivers -- part of a revamped enforcement strategy launched amid concern over declining DWI arrests, authorities said yesterday.
The new tactic, which includes quizzing impaired drivers to find out where they'd been drinking, was announced before the Memorial Day weekend -- one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
"We will put this information in a database, and we'll look to find patterns of behavior," acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said at a news conference in Island Park, joined by County Executive Ed Mangano and District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
"And then what we'll do is we'll aggressively go after those establishments," Krumpter added. "Everything from sending in undercovers to referrals to the state Liquor Authority."
The debriefing of DWI suspects will now be a routine part of the arrest process, authorities said, with officers filling out short forms detailing any intelligence gleaned from the interviews.
In a message to bar and restaurant owners, Krumpter said they have a legal responsibility to not serve booze to intoxicated customers. If that happens, "and those people get on the road, we're going to be coming after you," he warned.
The announcement came two days after Newsday and News 12 Long Island reported that drunken-driving arrests dropped steeply following Nassau's elimination of its specialized DWI team in 2011.
On Thursday, officials abruptly reversed course, bringing back the Selective Enforcement Team, or SET, in time for the holiday weekend.
Cops from that unit will now be among those who will gather intelligence from drunken-driving suspects, questioning them about where they drank, who served them and when, authorities said.
The crackdown on serving booze to impaired drivers comes after anti-DWI activists and police union officials criticized elimination of SET.
With the unit on patrol, officers made an average of 2,641 DWI arrests from 2008 to 2011. Since the unit shut down, Nassau DWI arrests have fallen steadily, from 1,853 in 2012 to 1,545 last year.
Rice and Mangano said in a statement Thursday that the new version of the unit "re-establishes the Selective Enforcement Team while also utilizing the intelligence-led policing models" now at the center of the county's overall crime-fighting strategy.
Intelligence-led policing, also called predictive policing, relies on analysis of reams of data to identify patterns, predict crime trends and more.
Officials said SET and intelligence-led DWI program, collectively called the DWI Alcohol-Related Incident Team, will be funded with $1 million in asset forfeiture funds.