Enjoy yourself, but don’t drink and drive over Memorial Day weekend.
That was the advice from Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini, who was joined by the brass from the East End’s 10 police departments at the United States Coast Guard’s Shinnecock Station in Hampton Bays Friday, May 25, to announce a crackdown on drunk and drugged drivers. The words proved prophetic for at least 17 people between the towns of Southampton and Riverhead
Law enforcement was out in full force conducting checkpoints and saturation patrols on land as part of the DA’s East End DWI Task Force, and in the water in the case of the Coast Guard, which was conducting its own check for boaters under the influence.
There have been 600 arrests by the task force since its formation in 2012. In 2017, the task force arrested 16 people over Memorial Day weekend, which was up from 14 in 2016, and 13 in 2015.
Sini said it’s impossible to articulate how many lives have been saved due to the task force’s work.
“When we speak to victims’ families and loved ones, we can’t put into words the tragic loss. One moment, [families] are enjoying a day with their loved one, the next, they are no longer here because someone made a stupid decision of drinking or using drugs and getting behind the wheel,” he said.
Southampton Town Police Captain Lawrence Schurek said there has been an uptick recently in drunken driving incidents over holiday weekends, but overall the saturation enforcement has been working and fatalities have been down.
“So, we know the plan is working,” he said.
Trooper Jose Febo, zone command captain for the New York State Police Riverside Barracks, said the emergent threat to public safety is drug-impaired driving.
“With the advent and further proliferation of marijuana being diverted from the states that it’s legal, additionally prescription drug use and routine abuse of prescription drugs, as soon as you co-mingle those with alcohol, you achieve a synergistic level of impairment well beyond what one might experience by the legitimate use of those drugs and prescribed use of those drugs, or alcohol,” he said.