Sobriety checkpoints Saturday night

Police, State Patrol will set up multiple Memorial Day checks

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— Between 16 and 20 police officers will be manning multiple checkpoints Saturday night as the Steamboat Springs Police Department and the Colorado State Patrol team up for a Memorial Day sobriety check.

Police will hold checkpoints around Steamboat Springs from 10 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday. The number and location of the checkpoints will not be announced until just before the checks begin, and officers will be able to move locations throughout the night.

Police Sgt. Rich Brown said the department has set up locations all across town in the past, including Elk River Road, Lincoln Avenue, Hilltop Parkway, Pine Grove Road and other thoroughfares, but 2005 was the last time checkpoints were set up in town.

The checkpoint night is funded through a grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation Law Enforcement Assistance Fund.

"CDOT has always encouraged the use of checkpoints, so we're just doing it again to revisit this operation because it's an effective tool for addressing problems with impaired driving," Brown said.

State Patrol Sgt. Scott Elliott said his office often teams up with local law enforcement agencies to crack down on drunken driving and alcohol-related injuries and deaths.

Ten officers from state patrol offices in Steamboat, Kremmling and Meeker will join six specially designated Steamboat officers and the regularly scheduled officers for the checkpoint.

Brown said checkpoints in the past have not led to many arrests, but that's the point.

"One of the things we see when we hold checkpoints is a significant increase in ridership of public transportation. Those are the kinds of measured effects we want to see, people out there making plans for alternative transportation and certainly avoiding drinking and driving," he said.

Officers hold brief conversations with each driver as they pass through the checkpoint, Brown said, often about 10 seconds long as the officer or trooper introduces himself or herself, asks the driver a quick question and allows them to pass if they appear unimpaired.

Elliott said officers will maintain a "saturation" presence in Steamboat in addition to the checkpoint.

Deputies to patrol

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall said his office also is dedicated to stopping drunken driving, but he has no intention of participating in checkpoints. Wall said checkpoints are an invasion of privacy and that he prefers to have his officers on patrol throughout the night instead.

"We are interested in stopping people for legitimate reasons," Wall said. "It doesn't rule out that we're interested in DUIs, but I think people are entitled to have some reason to be stopped, rather than just everybody."

Wall said the law supports checkpoints but that he doesn't believe they should be used. Instead, he will be using his officers as usual.

"We're going to do our normal patrol. We can't pay them overtime, so we'll be out doing our normal thing," he said.

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