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Police to Target Drunk Drivers

By Daniel Wolowicz

December is a month of holiday parties and a time when many people enjoy a glass of wine or a flute of cold champagne.

Local law enforcement officials want to remind partygoers to drink responsibly or to have a sober driver available for the ride home.

Camarillo Police Chief Stephen DeCesari announced last week that December is "Driving Under the Influence Crackdown Month" in Camarillo. From the first of December through New Year's Eve, the police department will increase its deputies on patrol throughout the city in an effort to target drunk drivers.

According to DeCesari, 17 people in Camarillo were arrested on DUI charges during December 2005, and there were five drunkdriving related car accidents.

The chief said he wants to reduce the number of arrests this year by making sure the public is aware there will be an increase in local law enforcement numbers.

"Part of our reduction plan is to implement several strategies, one being education, the other being saturation patrols," DeCesari said.

Camarillo joins 13 other law enforcement agencies in a countywide push to reduce drunk driving. The list of agencies that will be out in force during the holiday season covers land and sea- from city police departments and the U.S. Coast Guard to the state parks department and U.S. Forestry Service.

Paid for by a $270,000 threeyear grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, the "Avoid the 13" campaign's name comes from the number of agencies that are setting up four DUI checkpoints throughout the county and sending more officers to the streets during December.

The program asks motorists to report suspected drunk drivers by calling 911.

"Law enforcement can only do so much," said Christopher J. Murphy, director of the traffic safety agency. "Knowing that other motorists are going to report drunk drivers is a significant deterrent. All of our efforts are aimed at preventing a drunk driver from getting behind the wheel in the first place. One phone call really can save a life."

According to the California Highway Patrol and Department of Motor Vehicles, 1,574 people were killed and 30,810 were injured in alcohol-related crashes in California last year, as compared to 1,462 fatalities and 31,538 injuries in 2004.

Through the Office of Traffic Safety, the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency awarded $3.7 million in grants to 94 local law enforcement agencies to conduct sobriety checkpoints during the year, according to state reports.

The state also gave $5 million to fund the campaigns in 35 counties, involving the CHP and more than 450 additional law enforcement agencies.

Campaign spokeswoman Jan Ford said the goal is to have all 58 counties in the state involved in the program. Ventura and Santa Barbara counties are participating for the first time this year.

"So anybody who wants to drink and drive, forget about it- we've got you covered clear up to Santa Maria," Ford said. "The idea is, you can avoid us by driving stone-cold sober every time."

Ford said that when counties participate in the campaign, arrests go up and injuries and fatalities drop during the holidays.

Although drivers have seen DUI checkpoints in Ventura County for years, she said never before have so many agencies in the county worked together to share resources, staff and equipment in a holiday drunk driving crackdown.

Michelle Knight contributed to this story.

Article courtesy of

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