Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota has a message for drivers who've been drinking, drugging, and driving: Don't do it.
"We just won't tolerate this anymore," Spota said.
Spota, surrounded by local, county and state enforcement agencies, gathered by the Peconic waterfront in Riverhead on Thursday for a press conference to announce a new
The multi-agency effort, similar to the East End Drug Task Force, aims to crack down on individuals driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The initiative, which kicks off this weekend, when scores of visitors will flock to the East End for Memorial Day festivities, is dubbed Operation NiteCAP and will "employ a team approach" to protect residents and visitors from those who are driving under the influence.
Outlining the task force, Spota said 17 additional patrol cars will be out on the roads, traveling to East End towns. On a given weekend, Spota said, Southold residents might see patrol cars from East Quogue or Southampton Town; and vice versa. The cars will come from various agencies, including two state police cars, and cars from the sheriff's office, to total 17.
In addition, the "BAT Mobile," a mobile unit that allows officers to administer breath alcohol testing on the spot, as well as to arrest and process defendants, will be set up at "saturation" patrol check points. The unit even includes a cell for up to four prisoners.
Spota said there has been a "surge" of DWI arrests countywide, with approximately 1,200 logged last year. Countywide, 699 blood tests came back positive for driving while intoxicated last year, Spota said. "That's an astounding number," he said, adding that the numbers of people arrested for driving while drinking or using drugs are higher than ever before.
The goal, he added, is to team up to tackle the escalating problem, using a multi-jurisdictional approach.
“Local police departments in the five towns and villages don’t have the resources to focus solely on drunk and drugged drivers on holiday weekends,” Spota said earlier in the week. “This team strategy will augment local law enforcement and make the expansion of the enforcement action on the East End more mobile and responsive.”
The operation will commence "without regard to jurisdictional boundaries," Spota said on Thursday.
Run under the auspices of the D.A., the efforts of the task force will begin Friday evening and continue at unannounced times throughout the summer season.
Representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, and local police chiefs were all on hand for the press conference; MADD representatives said the hope was to keep residents safe.
"If you're going to drink at a party, stay put," said MADD victim advocate Margaret Rebholz.
Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson said the East End has a host of tourist attractions, including beautiful beaches, restaurants and shops. But he warned against drinking and driving. "We will be out in force," he said. "Don't do it."
Spota said the initiative will take place all summer long, but said he could not disclose specific locations or when the checkpoints would be set up. "That would be self-defeating," he said.
Prosecutors will be standing by in court on the days the checkpoints are set up, to facilitate arrests and processing, he said.
"The message we all have is that we want people to come to the East End," Spota said. "We want visitors to enjoy everything the East End has to offer." But, he said, the task force was galvanized to protect residents and visitors alike. "We want people to come. But don't drink and drive. If they do, they're going to be arrested. It's as simple as that."