Police step up patrols for holidays

CONYERS - As Andy Williams might sing, this is the season when there'll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near - and the Georgia State Patrol will be out in force to make sure it's the most wonderful time of the year.

The GSP, along with local law enforcement agencies, is participating in Operation Zero Tolerance, which kicked off Friday and will run until Jan. 4.

According to the Georgia Office of Highway Safety, any driver with a blood alcohol level found to be over the legal limit will be placed under arrest.

"It's not about writing more tickets, it's about saving more lives," said GOHS Director Robert F. Dallas in a press release.

The travel period between Thanksgiving and New Year's is one of the most dangerous times on the road. According to the GOHS, 992 people died in traffic crashes in December 2007 nationwide. In Georgia, 12 people died in fatal crashes during the 2007 Christmas travel period.

Dallas said that one in three fatal highway crashes is alcohol related.

Conyers Police Chief David Cathcart said the CPD is in the midst of its holiday operations, which began in early November, including increased patrols assigned to target areas in business districts.

Extra officers will be out in force, particularly during the three days between Dec. 29 and 31, Cathcart said.

"I want to encourage everybody, as I do every year, that with the increased amount of traffic, people should plan accordingly," he said. "If they need to, they should leave earlier and be patient with the amount of traffic out there, especially with last-minute Christmas shoppers."

Drivers traveling east should also know police in Newton County are taking Operation Zero Tolerance seriously.

"We'll have stepped up traffic enforcement and probably include road checks during the holidays to ensure that we keep the highways safe," said Newton County' Sheriff-elect Ezell Brown. "We'll be looking for DUIs, seat belt violations and any other type of violator."

Sgt. Wendell Wagstaff of the Covington Police Department added, "We're just urging everyone to take the necessary precautions, make sure everybody is buckled up and be safe."

Wagstaff said especially between the Christmas and New Year's holiday, his department will be stepping up patrols looking for intoxicated drivers and taking them off the road.

"If you drink and drive, you're looking at a hefty fine, time in jail, community service and possibly losing your license. It's not worth it," he said. "If you have to go out and drink, use a designated driver. If you get somewhere and you know you've had too much to drink, call a friend to pick you up. It's great to have a good time over the holidays, but don't do something that is going to affect your life and possibly result in the injury or death of another driver."

Newton Citizen News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this article.

Aimee Jones can be reached at aimee.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.