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Nassau getting B.A.T.-mobile to catch drunken drivers

The B.A.T.-mobile is coming to Nassau County. And drunken drivers are in its crosshairs.

This version - short for Blood Alcohol Testing Vehicle - is bigger than the original, with fewer gizmos, has room for more than two crime-fighters, and at $229,361.95, probably cheaper than what a made-for-the-movies Batmobile would cost.

But the bottom line is the same: fighting crime, and putting on a bit of a show while doing it.

"When we make arrests for drunken driving on Hempstead Turnpike or 495, John Q. Public out there sees us make the car stop, maybe sees us make the arrest, but that's it," said Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey. "But with this high-visibility vehicle on the scene, we can have a bigger impact."

Maureen McCormick, chief of vehicular crimes for the Nassau County district attorney's office, agreed the vehicle would have an impact.

"At big events - a concert in the park, an event at Jones Beach - people going in see the B.A.T.-mobile as they go in and it serves as a deterrent," she said.

But it is also a useful tool for catching borderline drunken drivers who might be at the legal limit when they're stopped by police, but under the limit an hour or two later when tested back at Police Headquarters in Mineola.

A standard field sobriety test or some other measure will still be used, as usual, to establish whether there is probable cause to arrest someone for drunken driving, according to Det. Sgt. Anthony Repalone, a police spokesman. Only a person under arrest is asked to take a breathalyzer, he said.

The legal limit is 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level, but drops by 0.015 to 0.020 percent per hour without taking another drink, McCormick said.

"Time is never on our side in DWI prosecutions. If three hours elapse, we could lose up to 0.06 percent," she said.

The vehicle will be purchased under a state grant obtained by state Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) and will be custom-built by Matthews Specialty Vehicles of Greensboro, N.C.

The testing facility will be in a large aluminum module mounted on a Chevrolet truck chassis. It will have bright outside lights to illuminate the checkpoint area, and the inside will have video equipment to record the Breathalyzer test, or to record a suspect's refusal to take the test.

Mulvey said the unit, which he expects to arrive later this year, would be particularly useful in eastern parts of Nassau, farther away from the testing facility at Police Headquarters.

Carl McDonald, head of National Law Enforcement Initiatives for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the vehicles have proved useful in other jurisdictions with large patrol areas.

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