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Police Try Checkpoints, High-Visibility Patrols to Curb Drunk Driving

Times Staff Writer

As six South Bay police agencies strive to get holiday drunk drivers off the road with checkpoints, three Palos Verdes Peninsula cities will use the high visibility of cruising police cars to try to do the same thing.

In addition, much of the South Bay will be under a combined police patrol that will operate through the New Year to stop drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Beginning tonight and continuing this weekend and next, two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department patrol cars--clearly tagged “Peninsula DUI"--will cruise the major thoroughfares of Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills Estates and Rolling Hills. One deputy will be in each car.

“This is intended to be a deterrent,” said traffic Sgt. James Miller of the Lomita sheriff’s station, which polices the three cities as a region under contracts with the city. “We can contact so many more people by maintaining this highly visible format.”

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Palos Verdes Estates, the fourth peninsula city that has its own Police Department, has added an extra car to the normal 3-car patrol on all shifts through Christmas, and Dec. 31, Jan. 1 and 2, Chief Gary E. Johansen said. “We will be concentrating on alcohol and drug enforcement,” he said.

Officers from a task force made up of six South Bay police agencies set up their first checkpoint Thursday between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. in Gardena. Other checkpoints will be set up tonight in El Segundo and Dec. 30 in Inglewood during the same hours.

Police said they hope the checkpoints will lead to more arrests and that publicity will deter people from drinking and driving.

The drunk-driving task force is made up of officers from the South Los Angeles California Highway Patrol, Lennox sheriff’s station, and El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne and Inglewood police departments.

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The same agencies--together with police from Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach--will staff special patrols coordinated by the El Segundo Police Department. They will patrol throughout their combined jurisdictions through Dec. 31 looking for people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A Torrance police DUI task force operated a checkpoint Thursday after 9:30 p.m. No others are planned, but they could be set up as needed, said traffic division Officer Phil Bendik.

The $3,000 peninsula holiday DUI program is being paid for by the three cities, with Rancho Palos Verdes, the largest city, paying 60% of the cost. Rolling Hills Estates is paying 30% and Rolling Hills 10%.

Tonight, Saturday and Monday, units will be on the streets from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. The patrols will be repeated during the same hours Dec. 30, 31 and Jan. 1.

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The cars will cruise Western Avenue, Palos Verdes drives North and South, and Hawthorne and Crenshaw boulevards. They also will respond to calls from residents about suspected drunk drivers.

In operation since 1983, the special holiday DUI patrol has made no arrests in the last two years, nor have there been any alcohol-related traffic accidents, Miller said. The patrol stopped 91 vehicles last year for driving irregularities, including wide turns and lane straddling. Thirty-seven citations were issued.

“We take that as a very positive sign that the high visibility and notoriety generated by our program has caused people to take notice and not to drive” after drinking, he said.

The roadblock approach would not be effective on the peninsula, he said, and it is more expensive.

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“It is isolated and there is not a lot of transient traffic,” he said. “Most people who come here live here or are visiting and we have the ability to reach them through our format.”


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