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Extra Police to Patrol for Drunk Drivers

To curb New Year’s Eve drinking and driving, San Fernando Valley police will deploy extra officers tonight but have abandoned setting up automobile checkpoints--a strategy that officers called unproductive.

“Drunk drivers are all over the Valley,” said Sgt. Ben Lee of the Valley Traffic Division.

The goal this year, authorities said, is to blanket the Valley with officers and keep tonight’s notorious New Year’s revelry from spilling out of bars and restaurants onto the highways.

With a checkpoint, “you have all of your DUI team sitting at one location,” Lee said. “Our efforts are better suited to just patrol.”

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A checkpoint was established last New Year’s Eve on San Fernando Road in Pacoima, where officers searched for signs of intoxication in motorists.

Tonight, all of the Valley Traffic Division’s 13 DUI investigators will spread across the Valley from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m., along with the division’s usual traffic officers. A second eight-member team of DUI investigators also will be on patrol.

Sgt. William Bowen, a Valley Traffic Division member involved with programs to educate children about the dangers of drinking and driving, said that while police at checkpoints do nab drunks, the results often disappoint.

Police are required by law to announce the location of checkpoints in advance, Bowen said.

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“It’s not very cost-effective,” Bowen said. “They’d be a lot more successful if we could set them up randomly.”

Sgt. Robert Balderrama said motorists can expect congestion of freeways and surface streets late today. “We can talk about problems from about 3 on,” he said. “If people choose to go out, hopefully they’ve made provisions.”

Motorists should allow plenty of travel time to their destinations and should keep a watchful eye on other vehicles, Balderrama said. Party-goers should also designate someone as the sober driver of the night.

“DUI fatalities are way down, and in the Valley they’re way down,” Bowen said. “We attribute that not only to enforcement but a lot more awareness.”

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