An increased number of Nassau police officers will be on patrol this holiday weekend and New Year's Eve, conducting DWI checkpoints and car stops at locations throughout the county, officials announced Thursday.
"We are warning you," Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said at a news conference at the police department's Mineola headquarters. "The police will be out in full force. If you are going to drink, do not drive. Make plans in advance."
Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Dale said there would be at least one additional officer staffed at each of the county's police commands, but declined to provide a specific number. Village, town and state police also will deploy additional officers, Dale said.
"We are saving lives by making these arrests," Dale said.
In 2011, 38 fatalities in Nassau were attributed to drunken driving, said Chris Mistron, the county's DWI coordinator. Through the end of October -- the most recent data available -- there have been 19 such deaths in Nassau, Mistron said.
Drunken drivers, Dale said, will be treated as "common criminals" and will be handcuffed, jailed, photographed and potentially have their car seized and sold at auction. Last New Year's Eve, Mangano said, Nassau police made 55 DWI arrests.
The additional police staffing is funded by DWI fines collected throughout the year. Through the end of November, Nassau police have made 2,572 DWI arrests, compared to 3,188 in 2011, Mistron said.
Some area car services are offering free rides home on New Year's Eve to those who may have had too much to drink.
Lawrence Blessinger Jr., vice president of All Island Transportation in Franklin Square, said his taxis will pick up individuals from Nassau catering halls, bars and restaurants and drive them home free of charge. A taxi, he said, will also drive them back to their cars the following day.