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East End DWI Task Force continues targeting drunken drivers, boaters

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota and

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota and Danielle Rella, right, from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, surrounded by Coast Guard officers and chiefs from east end police departments, announce a plan for increased sobriety checkpoints on east end roads and waters, during a press conference at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Shinnecock in Hampton Bays, June 17, 2014. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

East End police forces are pooling their efforts for the third straight summer in an effort to curb drunken driving and intoxicated boating during the tourism season.

The East End DWI Task Force, comprising officers from 17 agencies, plans to coordinate operations throughout the summer on roads and waterways, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Tuesday.

"We want people to come to the East End, we want them to enjoy what we have out here," Spota said. ". . . But if they choose to drive or operate a boat while drunk, they're going to pay the penalty."

Spota deputizes officers in the task force so they can cross jurisdictional boundaries and patrol towns and villages across Long Island's two forks.

The task force sets up sobriety checkpoints and "saturation patrols," which involve 20 to 30 officers searching an area for drunken drivers or intoxicated boaters.

Participating agencies include all five town and all five village police departments on the East End, as well as Suffolk County police, parks police, sheriffs and the district attorney's office; New York State Police and environmental conservation police; and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Since starting the coordinated patrols in 2012, the task force has completed 19 operations and made 364 arrests for driving while intoxicated and 58 arrests for unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, Spota said.

"It's been working out great for us," said Westhampton Beach Village Police Lt. Trevor Gonce. He said the extra manpower helps keep the roads and waterways safe while officers respond to aid requests and other calls that pick up in the summer.

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