- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Police in the District and surrounding areas are gearing up for New Year’s Eve by increasing the number of officers on the streets and adding sobriety checkpoints.

“We will have sobriety and seat beltcheckpoints and have increased both foot and car patrols,” said Sgt. Joe Gentile, D.C. police spokesman.

Fairfax County police will man two sobriety checkpoint stations today and tomorrow. Each checkpoint will be operated by 12 officers and one supervisor to help speed up the process.

Maryland State Police will not set up sobriety checkpoints this year, but they will have what they are calling “saturation points.” A saturation point targets a roadway where there have been fatalities in the past and focuses officers in the area.

“Troopers are not just limited to the interstate, they have jurisdiction everywhere,” said Sgt. Rob Moroney, spokesman for the Maryland State Police. “Troopers who work a particular area know where there are going to be drivers under the influence.”

Montgomery County will unleash its Holiday Task Force, a group of officers who find drunken drivers, deal with holiday parties, and look for underage drinking. The task force will conduct regular sobriety checks and saturation patrols, and will focus on teenage drivers who speed, street race and drive drunk.

Officers in Alexandria expect a busy New Year’s Eve, too, with crowds in Old Town attending First Night celebrations.

“New Year’s Eve is always a busy night in Alexandria. A lot of people like to go out and celebrate,” said Amy Bertsch, spokeswoman for the Alexandria Police Department. “Because of First Night, we add officers working for increased security and to assist with the large groups of visitors.”

Prince George’s County is not planning on increasing patrols, but will look for people who are drinking and driving.

“We’re extra vigilant around the holidays, especially New Year’s,” said Cpl. Joe Merkel, a Prince George’s County police spokesman.

Officials encourage those who plan to go out and celebrate to take advantage of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program’s SoberRide service. The free taxi service is offered 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. New Year’s weekend and is available in the District and surrounding areas.

SoberRide can be reached by calling 800/200-8294(TAXI) or dialing 8294 (TAXI) from cell phones with Cingular service.

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