Police ready to beef up patrols for New Year’s

Area departments, state police to increase drunken driving law enforcement

By sandi carpello
Staff Writer

Police ready to beef up
patrols for New Year’s
By sandi carpello
Staff Writer

Revelers planning to bring in the new year in "high spirits" may want to give their ride home a sober second thought, as area police departments will be increasing their drunken driving patrols.

"It’s a holiday. More people go out, and more people are tempted to drink. We want to have a heightened presence on the roadways," said Sgt. Gerald Lewis, a spokesman for the New Jersey State Police.

Last New Year’s Eve, state troopers issued 1,600 traffic summonses, including 50 driving-while-intoxicated arrests, and 1,000 traffic-related warnings, according to Mike Zaleski, a research analyst for the state police.

In an effort to crack down on drinking and driving, the state police will beef up patrols on New Year’s Eve. In addition to its regular patrol, state police have assigned 308 officers known as "dedicated holiday personnel" to be out from midnight Dec. 30 until midnight Jan. 1.

The number of additional officers assigned to the New Year’s holiday detail is an increase from the 272 additional personnel on Thanksgiving, Zaleski said.

While regular state troopers will track other criminal activity such as domestic violence disputes and thefts, "the dedicated personnel are designated for safety issues only," Zaleski said.

The state troopers will be looking out for tell-tale signs of drunken driving such as speeding, excessive brake use, weaving or any other traffic violations, police officials said.

According to Lewis, both marked and unmarked police cars will have a heightened presence on state thoroughfares such as Route 18, the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike. There will also be random checkpoints dispersed throughout the state, Lewis said.

East Brunswick police Capt. Ken O’Connor said drunken driving on New Year’s Eve has not been a major problem in the township within the last couple of years. Noting that there were only four DWI arrests in the township on New Year’s Eve 2001, O’Connor said people are generally becoming more careful.

"People know the police are going to be out in force, especially on New Year’s," he said.

Still, O’Connor said his department will have eight additional officers out on Dec. 31 in both marked and unmarked police cars.

"The guys will be out there patrolling," he said.

Lt. Jack Sweeney of the Old Bridge Police Department said the department plans to add two more patrol cars to its regular force. They will rely on the assistance of special DWI patrols who are traditionally out during weekends and major holidays. The DWI patrols are funded by the state Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund.

In addition to enforcing drunken-driving and other traffic laws, police in smaller municipalities such as Spotswood and Helmetta plan to tackle other New Year’s Eve-related problems.

"House parties tend to get out of hand, especially with the youth," said Spotswood Police Chief Karl Martin.

Martin said that the department plans to strictly enforce the borough’s 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. noise ordinance, while increasing patrols on the road.

Domestic disputes have also been a noteworthy problem during New Year’s Eve.

"With any of the holidays there is more domestic activity and more domestic disputes," said O’Connor. Families get together more, and there tends to be more arguments, he said.