MAHONING COUNTY Sobriety checkups to increase next year

Canfield received an award for making 11 impaired-driving arrests.
AUSTINTOWN -- Next year, look for more sobriety checkpoints in Mahoning County.
Goshen Police Chief Jim Willock said the Operating Vehicle Impaired Task Force grant for 2006 should increase to roughly $142,000, compared to $80,000 for this year. The increase will likely mean nine OVI checkpoints, up from six this year, he said.
He said it's possible that next year's crackdown on impaired driving will feature multiple checkpoints held the same night. The task force goal is to reduce alcohol-related injuries and fatalities.
Willock made the grant announcement Tuesday during an OVI awards ceremony at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish Center on Norquest Boulevard. Officers who participated in the task force this year received certificates of recognition.
Who was involved
Participants this year were officers from Austintown, Beaver, Boardman, Canfield, Goshen, Jackson, Lake Milton State Park, Mahoning County Sheriff's Department, Milton, New Middletown, Poland Township, Smith, Springfield, Struthers, Youngstown, Youngstown State University and the Ohio State Highway Patrol Canfield post.
The OVI grant reimburses police departments for overtime officers accrue manning the checkpoints and saturation patrols, which allow for extra enforcement, typically around holidays.
Participation in the task force is voluntary, said Tracy Styka of the district board of health, who serves as task force coordinator.
She received a special award -- a shirt -- from the officers.
Austintown Sgt. Ron Deamicis called Styka the "heart and soul" of the program and said she attended every OVI checkpoint.
Deamicis presented special recognition awards to Canfield for making the most OVI arrests, 11, and Poland Township for issuing the most safety belt citations, 30.
In all, the task force made 58 OVI arrests and issued 94 safety belt/child restraint citations. The average blood-alcohol concentration was 0.115; the legal limit is 0.08.
Officers also issued 181 speed citations and cited 67 drivers who were operating on a suspended or revoked license.
What Judge Evans said
Judge James C. Evans was the keynote speaker at Tuesday's event. The Mahoning County common pleas judge joked that he was surprised to learn Canfield police made the most OVI arrests.
"People in Canfield don't drink, smoke or cuss," the judge said. "There must be a lot of strangers passing through the town."
Judge Evans said it seems inconceivable to him that, with all the advance publicity the task force checkpoints receive, police are still able to nab offenders.
He said Mothers Against Drunk Drivers would like to see the legal alcohol limit reduced to 0.05 but he believes the peak of enforcement is reached with 0.08. He said most drivers involved in fatalities generally register in the "high teens or low 20s."

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