Departments get grants to combat drunken drivers

Patrols for DUIs to be increased

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— Annual grants given to the Routt County Sheriff's Office and the Steamboat Springs Police Department are being used to increase DUI patrols.

The Colorado Law Enforcement Assistance Fund granted the Sheriff's Office $35,000 and the Police Department $15,000 this week.

Grants are given two out of three years and this is the second year of the cycle.

"It goes to pick up drunks," Routt County Sheriff John Warner said.

His office used a small portion of the cash to buy two cameras for police vehicles, but most of it will go to pay deputies and officers overtime to look for drunken drivers in the upcoming year.

Some of the money will also pay Hayden officers who work overtime on drunk patrol and possibly Oak Creek officers, depending what the town's future police chief decides.

The Oak Creek Board of Trustees is in the process of hiring a chief.

Routt County Deputy Mike Curzon, who administers the LEAF grants for the county, said most of the overtime would be during the state-organized "Heat Is On" campaigns and special events in the county.

A Heat is On campaign, when officers do intense patrols looking for drunken drivers, will start Dec. 27 and go through Jan. 2.

"Three extra deputies are on, being paid by LEAF," Curzon said.

That makes six total deputies during the Heat Is On, but the extra three won't take normal calls. They are just looking for drunken drivers, he said.

Throughout the year, the grant money is worth about 1,000 hours of overtime pay for the county, he said.

"It's good to look in the county and see what's out there," Curzon said.

The Steamboat Springs Police Department uses the grant money to add two extra five-hour shifts a week to its schedule, paying officers overtime just to look for drunken drivers, said Sgt. Rich Brown, who coordinates the LEAF grant for the city.

"The grant requires that they are specifically dedicated to DUI enforcement," he said.

LEAF grants are administered through the Colorado Department of Transportation. They are funded from DUI fines, CDOT spokeswoman Mairi Nelson said.

She said $90 from each DUI fine goes to LEAF.

The grant fund receives $72 of that and the rest goes to DUI prevention programs.

The purpose of the grant is to prevent fatal crashes involving drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

"Any county sheriff's office or city police department is eligible to apply," she said.

CDOT gave 48 city and county law enforcement agencies LEAF grants, with all of them totaling $1,475,000.

More than $20 million in LEAF grants have been awarded since the program began in 1984.

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