The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday January 31st

Operation Safe Streets aims to stop drunk driving

The Mecklenburg County Alcohol Beverage Control Board has a program called Operation Safe Streets, which aims to stop drunk driving by finding people a safe way home instead of arresting them. 

Michael Crowley, the law enforcement director of the Mecklenburg County ABC Board, said 5 percent of the profits from the ABC Board go to law enforcement and this program differs from the traditional form of policing for DWIs. 

He said people leaving bars intoxicated sometimes still try to drive. 

“So, I thought why not go to the places and if we see people come out and if we see people that are intoxicated, just walk up to them, tell them who we are and make sure they get a safe ride home," he said. "We've had 100 percent participation when we speak to people that are intoxicated."

Sgt. Mike Baker, spokesperson for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, said every time there is a holiday period where people do not have to go to work the next day or have an elongated amount of time off, there is an increase in alcohol consumption.

“Over the Thanksgiving week, we had the I-40 Thanksgiving Challenge," he said. "We focus on the I-40 corridor from one side of the state to the other. So, over the entire state during the Thanksgiving period which was from the 22nd to the 26th we arrested 445 people for DWIs statewide. We had 16 fatalities statewide, but we had zero on the I-40 corridor.” 

Ran Northam, spokesperson for the Chapel Hill Police Department, said the Town of Chapel Hill works with Downtown Chapel Hill to look out for people who are intoxicated.

“We will put out social media messages about the alcohol law enforcement's team operations, and I don't want operations to seem like a dirty word in that sense, but when our alcohol law enforcement teams or our alert teams go out and go to bars on nights that we suspect that there could be a large crowds at bars we put out messages in advance of that and say, 'This is where we're going to be and this what we're going to be doing,'” he said.

Crowley said he is not against arresting people who are drunk driving, but the goal is to get people home safely.

“One night, I had a young lady who had way too much to drink,” he said. “She had no ride home and no money. So, that's another part of the ABC Board. If you're intoxicated and you have no way to get home or a friend to pick you up or money for a cab or Uber, the ABC board will get you home. The ABC board will pay for it."

Northam said Halloween was one the busiest nights for public safety. The Town of Chapel Hill posted messages on social media alerting people of dangers to avoid.

“If any resident of the community, whether they are students, residents, visitors or anybody who needs assistance in the community in getting home safely, our officers are there to make sure that happens,” he said.  “Anybody in the community can talk to our officers if they are need of their assistance.”


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