Long arm of law further extended through holidays | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Long arm of law further extended through holidays

The long arm of the law wants to give holiday revelers a short leash for wrongdoing.

The California Highway Patrol has begun its maximum enforcement period in what officers refer to as “the mean season.” It started Monday and ends Jan. 3.

During the New Year’s holiday, CHP borrows staff from Truckee, Sacramento and Placerville.

“Anybody who can work, works,” CHP Tahoe spokeswoman Sherry Reehl said Thursday.

Some officers know too well the tragedy associated with drunken driving, when a family of four can be wiped out at the hands of an intoxicated motorist.

CHP Capt. Chuck Chellew believes people are aware of the negative consequences behind drinking and driving.

Despite the educational efforts, the CHP reports the number of people statewide killed and injured in alcohol-related highway deaths rose in 2001 to 1,308 and 31,806, respectively. In the prior year, 1,233 were killed and 30,971 were injured. That’s up from 1999’s 1,170 fatalities and 29,833 injuries.

But contrary to popular belief, the holidays provide no disproportionate number of deaths and injuries to the statistics.

CHP Sacramento spokeswoman Anne Da Vigo attributes the fact that the number of fatalities don’t increase considerably in the holidays to the level of manpower on the roads.

“I think everyone agrees high consumption goes on. But the manpower is out there. It’s an important issue to us to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents,” Da Vigo said.

South Lake Tahoe averages about three alcohol-related deaths a year. This year is no different.

As for DUI-related arrests, CHP cited 21 drivers between Dec. 22, 2001, and Jan. 1, 2002.

To avert the incidents, the Resort Sports Network cable Channel 12 airs traffic advisories from CHP Tahoe. In those advisories viewers may receive road conditions and safety tips that cover subjects like drunken driving.

During the holidays, law enforcement heightens its level of cooperation.

The meetings between agencies regarding holidays start a year in advance. During the massive event, the officers even cross deputize themselves for other jurisdictions.

Last year, there was a concern following Sept. 11 over a massive crowd in the casino corridor, a staging ground in which more than 60,000 partyers gathered.

The concern continues, Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Lance Modispacher said Thursday.

“We’re still on our toes. When you’re managing 60,000 people in the streets, there are a lot things you’ve got to think about — not just personal safety but property damage,” he said.

With the younger crowd often assembled inside the casino corridor, Modispacher stressed the parental role in maintaining a safe New Year’s celebration in Tahoe.

“Please pay attention to where your kids are. I’ve personally arrested a 12-year-old so intoxicated, he can’t stand up at 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com

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