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East End agencies team up to target DWI

Law enforcement personnel check automobiles for impaired drivers

Law enforcement personnel check automobiles for impaired drivers at a Suffolk County Sheriff's DWI checkpoint along the Long Island Expressway in Medford. (Jan. 2, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Law enforcement agencies on the East End will team up, beginning Memorial Day weekend, to crack down on drivers who drive drunk or high this summer, officials announced Wednesday.

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said county police, sheriffs and parks and 10 East End law enforcement agencies will pool resources to create a task force targeting certain areas with increased enforcement.

"In Sag Harbor, you might see officers from Quogue, Southampton Town or Southampton Village," Spota said at a news conference in Riverhead.

Spota said that at any given time, a total of 17 task force members would target areas on the north and south forks. He declined to say which communities or when the extra enforcement would take place.

Southampton Police Chief William Wilson Jr. said the initiative will allow the town to boost its extra DWI coverage over and above the usual two officers.

To allow police to work outside their own jurisdictions, Spota said task force officers are being sworn in as special district attorney's investigators.

Driving the effort, law enforcement officials said, is the beginning of the East End's tourist season.

Walker said, "Next week we're going to exponentially see an increase in vehicular traffic with the beginning of the busy tourist season . . . We will be out in force."

A Spota spokeswoman said the additional coverage will be funded by the district attorney's office through drug forfeiture funds. Spota said he wouldn't know the exact price tag until the end of the effort.

The task force will use a sheriff's office Breath/Blood Alcohol Testing Vehicle -- dubbed the BAT Mobile -- that will be parked near the areas being targeted.

Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said the $330,000 vehicle, funded through drug forfeiture funds and a federal grant, will allow law enforcement officers to test and process drunken driving suspects and return to patrol more quickly.

Suffolk and Nassau police and the sheriff's department also plan similar stepped-up enforcement.

After the news conference, Sue Ciano spoke of the impact a drunken driver had on her. Her husband, Suffolk Police Officer Glen Ciano, was killed when a man who had been drinking and talking on a cellphone slammed into his cruiser in Commack in February 2009.

"I lost my best friend. My children lost their father. Nothing is ever going to be the same," said Ciano, 49, of Bayport. "Everyday, I miss him."

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