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Holiday weekend means stepped-up DWI patrols, cops say

Chris Mistron, coordinator of Stop DWI Nassau County

Chris Mistron, coordinator of Stop DWI Nassau County speaks at the Long Beach Police Department's press conference on drunk driving on Thursday, July 2, 2015. Credit: Angela Datre

It's been 10 years since Jennifer Flynn lost her 7-year-old daughter Kate to a drunken driver in a vehicular crash, and she said there's no coming to peace with her loss.

Flynn spoke Thursday at a news conference in Long Beach, where city police officials and acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced a program designed to reduce DWI violations. The program was launched Thursday and ends after the Fourth of July weekend.

"Every day I try my best to raise three healthy children while one lives in heaven," said Flynn, who lives in Long Beach. "It's not an injustice. Call it what it is."

According to the Nassau County Traffic Safety Board, there were 2,439 driving while intoxicated arrests in Nassau County last year, 61 of them on the Fourth of July weekend.

"We know that there's an uptick of these [drunken driving] incidents in the summer," Singas said. "We call these the 'deadliest days of the year.' . . . Everyone has a responsibility to act responsibly."

Long Beach police will deploy about four roving officers a day until July 6, and regular patrols also will enforce DWI laws. The initiative is planned to combat popular mobile apps, such as Waze, that alert users about DWI checkpoints.

"This is not an act of prohibition. This is an act of responsibility," said Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney. "If you're going to go out, make plans to get home."

Long Beach police plans to enforce the program again for Labor Day.

The Suffolk County Sheriff's Office also revealed plans to increase DWI enforcement during the holiday weekend and year-round. Sheriff Vincent F. DeMarco said three new deputy sheriff's positions will patrol exclusively for intoxicated drivers, especially on the East End.

The office made the positions with funding from the Stop-DWI program. Assistant Deputy County Executive Tom Sini said Stop-DWI's funding comes from DWI fines, not taxpayers. Ten Suffolk police officers patrol exclusively for DWIs through the program.

Sini said Stop-DWI has reduced the number of DWIs in the county by 25 percent in three years; DWI deaths also have decreased by 25 percent.

In previous years, a task force patrolled the East End 12 nights a year, Sini said. Now, the three new positions will allow for daily patrols.

Suffolk Deputy Sheriff Michael Kern said there were five DWI arrests since the task force started last weekend.

"We look forward to taking more drunk drivers off the road," DeMarco said. Drivers using drugs are targets as well, he said.

The East End also will make use of the breath alcohol testing mobile unit vehicle -- or the BAT Mobile -- which was purchased in 2012 and acts as a mobile command center. The vehicle is equipped to conduct breath tests, draw blood and detain up to four people, officials said. It will be stationed in East Hampton this weekend.

"The more people we arrest," DeMarco said, "the more the message is getting out there."

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