Steamboat police arrest nine in DUI checkpoint

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— On a weekend law enforcement agencies cracked down hard on suspected drunken drivers, 14 people here were arrested, including nine that were nabbed at a Steamboat Springs checkpoint.
Starting at 9 p.m. Saturday, officers from the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Oak Creek police departments, along with officers from the Colorado State Patrol and Routt County Sheriff's Office, set up a checkpoint on U.S. Highway 40 between Anglers and Trafalgar drives.
When the law enforcement officers finished the checkpoint at 2:30 a.m., nine people had been arrested for alleged drunken driving, said J.D. Hays, Steamboat Springs director of public safety services.
During the hours of the checkpoint, 657 vehicles passed through the checkpoint, which was the first one ever done by the Steamboat Springs Police Department.
"The checkpoint was good," Hays said. "I was surprised by the number of people we caught. I did not think we would get nine."
Prior to the checkpoint, the department had sent out a public service announcement through the newspaper and radio that a checkpoint was scheduled for Saturday night.
"Everybody knew this was going on," Hays said. "Yet people still consumed alcohol and drove down the road. This leads me to believe they felt they had not consumed enough alcohol to affect their driving. It does not take much."
The arrests here were included in the 385 arrests law enforcement agencies made across the state between 6 p.m. Friday and 3 a.m. Sunday.
According to a press release from the Colorado Department of Transportation, the State Patrol and 45 police and sheriff's departments conducted sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols Friday and Saturday.
The State Patrol made 94 drunken driving arrests statewide. In Denver, 32 people were arrested, agencies in Boulder County made 48 arrests and 30 people were arrested in Colorado Springs, the press release shows.
The number of arrests made in the Routt County area was more than Aurora's 11, Fort Collins' 10 and Broomfield's 10.
The checkpoints and saturation patrols conducted throughout the state were funded by Law Enforcement Assistance Fund Grants agencies were awarded.
Earlier this year, the Steamboat Springs Police Department was awarded a $21,000 LEAF grant.
Part of that grant was used to fund the hours officers worked during the checkpoint here.
Hays believes many people who choose to drive after drinking do not realize what could happen.
"Unfortunately, people do not realize the impact of drinking and driving until something happens to them," Hays said. "We want people to realize this is a dangerous thing to do."
Although 14 arrests were made during the weekend, Hays believes the number is not high because of the attitude agencies in the county have against drunk-drivers.
"Every year we arrest hundreds of people," he said. "For years, this area has had a reputation of having zero tolerance against drunken driving. Every agency in this area takes a strict stance on the offense."
With one checkpoint completed, the Steamboat Springs Police Department will probably schedule a second one before the end of the year, Hays said.
Hays believes the checkpoint will occur during one of the upcoming holiday weekends.
"With the holidays coming up, I hope that at least in context this checkpoint reiterates to the public they should not drink and drive," he said. "If they are going to drive, they need to abstain from alcohol."

To reach Gary E. Salazar call 871-4205 or e-mail gsalazar@amigo.net

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