A $60,000 grant will go towards stepping up DWI patrols in Long Beach and Freeport. NewsdayTV’s Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Newsday/Photo Credit: Paul Mazza ; Kendall Rodriguez; A.J. Singh

More police on patrol, fewer drunken drivers on the road and avoiding a repeat of last year's deadly summer — three goals of a $60,000 law enforcement grant to the Freeport and Long Beach police departments awarded Tuesday by the Nassau County District Attorney's Office.

The grant is divided between the two departments and will go toward overtime for officers on patrol as part of a stepped-up effort to catch drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs before they can potentially cause a crash, often with fatal results.

Acting Long Beach Police Commissioner Richard DePalma said the roughly three months between Memorial Day and Labor Day are often called “the 100 deadliest days of summer” because of increased DWIs and dangerous driving.

“These funds are going to help us get extra cops on the street for the summer,” DePalma said. “People come and enjoy our beaches. But we want them to do it responsibly.”

DePalma said Long Beach police have made more than 1,000 DWI arrests in the past decade and about 25% involved drugs.

Both Long Beach and Freeport were awarded the same size grant from the district attorney's office last year.

Freeport Police Chief Michael Smith said the 2023 grant allowed the department to add a pair of officers every Friday and Saturday during the summer. Of the department's 35 enhanced summer patrols, 34 resulted in DWI arrests.

Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly recalled “a tragic nine-day span last August” when crashes “fueled by drugs or alcohol” in East Massapequa, Laurel Hollow and West Hempstead took the lives of seven people and left six others injured.

“It was horrific,” Donnelly said.

She recounted the August high-speed crash on Sunrise Highway in East Massapequa that killed four members of a family who had gone out for ice cream. Michael DeAngelo, of Lindenhurst, who was driving more than 120 mph while high on cocaine and fentanyl when he crashed into the back of the vehicle on Aug. 6, pleaded guilty earlier this month to aggravated vehicular homicide, second-degree manslaughter, second- and third-degree assault and driving while impaired on drugs.

A few hours later, about 2 a.m. on Aug. 7, 6-year-old Katrine Venegas-Hernandez was killed by an alleged drunken driver, Jorge Bonilla Gutierrez, of Freeport. Donnelly said Gutierrez was driving at more than twice the legal limit on Hempstead Turnpike at the time of the crash. He pleaded not guilty at his January arraignment on a felony indictment that included several counts of manslaughter, assault and drunken driving. He is due back in court on June 6, according to court records.

On Aug. 12, Sotirios Spanos was driving drunk on Northern Boulevard in Laurel Hollow when he crashed into a Ferrari, killing a couple, Ismenia Urena and Odalis Urena, both 37, of Syosset. Spanos’ blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08%. He pleaded guilty in April to aggravated vehicular homicide.

"Their two young children are left without a mother and a father,” Donnelly said. “That was last summer in Nassau County. What I'm trying to do is prevent another summer like that in Nassau County this summer.”

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