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New Year's Eve time for responsibility
Those who plan to drink need a designated driver

Monday, December 31, 2012

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Extra law enforcement officers will be out in force on New Year’s Eve, and they have one message to revelers: If celebrations include alcohol, have a designated driver.

“There is no excuse not to have a designated driver,” said Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers. “If you don’t have one, refrain from drinking.”

Extra city officers will be patrolling city streets, and “we also will be conducting traffic checking details,” he said.

Rogers declined to identify areas where road checks will be held, as did Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry.

But, Perry said one thing is certain.

“We are going to have extra officers out New Year’s Eve and they will be patrolling countywide,” he said.

Additional officers also will take to the roads in Patrick County, and Sheriff Dan Smith cautions there “are mandatory jail sentences of five to 10 days if a person is convicted” of driving under the influence and his or her Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is within certain ranges.

While his officers won’t be patrolling roads, Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper said many will be on duty in the jail that night and others will be on standby.

Draper, who is responsible for operating and securing the city jail and maintaining security in the courtrooms, the City Municipal Building and other areas, said he prepares for both an influx of inmates and incidents within the jail on New Years Eve.

“I don’t know whether it’s the attitude of inmates or whatever, with tempers flaring” and the like, but there is a higher likelihood of incidents in the jail, he said.

“It may have a lot to do with being incarcerated during the holiday, but there is a change in attitude among inmates,” Draper added.

For that reason, “all three of my shift lieutenants will be on call that night,” Draper said, and the fourth is scheduled to work.

The sheriff said he does not anticipate a large number of people being arrested and jailed Monday night.

“We don’t have a lot in the city. Probably only three or four,” Draper said. “We probably get more disruptions in inmate behavior during that 24-hour period than anything else, but we always feel like we've got to be prepared” for anything.

Preparations also are needed partly because “there are some awful large parties going on” in Martinsville that night, Draper said.

“People normally behave themselves” and know better than to drink and drive, he said.

But if they do not and if police officers make a mass arrest, Draper said his department will be ready to respond.

“That’s what standby is for — being on call” and ready to respond with little advance notice, he said.

Other drivers can help police by being on the lookout for driving that appears suspicious, according to the Virginia State Police.

A state police release encourages drivers to call police and report suspected DUI drivers. It also reminds drivers that “your actions could save someone’s life.”

In Martinsville and Henry County, call the Joint Communications Dispatch Center at 638-8751; in Patrick County, call 694-3161; to reach the state police, dial #77.


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