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Suffolk to increase New Year's DWI patrols

An undated file photo of a Suffolk police

An undated file photo of a Suffolk police vehicle. Credit: Newsday/Alan Raia

In announcing increased DWI patrols for the New Year's holiday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Friday stood shoulder-to-shoulder with not only uniformed police officers, but also with a group he called "victim survivors."

There was Danielle Rella, whose brother, Nassau police Officer Kenneth Baribault Jr., was struck and gravely injured by a drunken driver in 2008 on the Long Island Expressway.

There was Sue Ciano, whose husband, Glen Ciano, a Suffolk police officer, was killed in 2009 when his cruiser was hit by a drunken driver in Commack.

And there was Margaret Rebholz and Dorothy Marino, whose teenage sons were each killed by drunken drivers along the South Shore, 13 years apart.

"These individuals are the reality of what happens -- what can happen -- when people make the decision to drive drunk," Bellone said from outside the county's H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge.

Suffolk police Chief of Department James Burke didn't quantify the increase in officers on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, but said that "every sworn member" on duty will make DWI patrols a priority. Nassau officials have announced increased patrols, too.

Nationwide, an average of 78 people die annually on New Year's Day at the hands of a drunken driver, 178 percent above the average daily rate, said Tom McCoy, executive director of Long Island MADD.

In Suffolk, three people died in alcohol-related crashes on Dec. 31, 2011, and Jan. 1, 2012. There were 60 such fatalities in the county for all of 2011, and 36 through the first nine months of this year.

Across the county, there were 5,156 DWI arrests in 2011. Through this September, there had been 4,044 DWI arrests.

Rella said she attended Friday's event in the hope that it would discourage even one person to drive drunk. "If it saves one life or more than one life," she said, "maybe Kenneth's sacrifice didn't happen in vain."

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