Crackdown targets holiday safety

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A holiday highway safety program started last year in Alabamahas made its way to Southwest Mississippi, and law enforcementofficials are hoping it will make the roads just a little safer fortravelers.

The campaign involves unusually large numbers of officers fromthe Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee working extra hours on theroadways during the days between November 19 through 25. AlabamaGov. Bob Riley announced in a recent press conference that theprogram is aimed at cutting back on fatal wrecks during the holidayweek.

“The ‘Take Back Our Highways’ campaign started in Alabama lastyear, I believe, and it reduced their fatalities a good deal,” saidMississippi Highway Patrol Troop M Sergeant Rusty Boyd. “They’veinvited Tennessee and Mississippi to participate during thisholiday period.”

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A release from Riley’s office said the crackdown will involvestate troopers, county sheriffs and local police officers in allthree states.

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson said his men will bevigilant during the holidays, but that his officers concentrate onkeeping the streets of Brookhaven safe even when there’s not aholiday to be celebrated.

“We’ve been blessed and fortunate on that part in that we’ve nothad a lot of problems on our streets during the holidays in thepast,” he said. “We do that job year-round, though.”

Henderson said there are no safety checkpoints, or roadblocks,scheduled inside the city for the Thanksgiving holidays.

“We don’t really have the money or manpower to take officers offtheir beats to do that,” he said. “We’re going to be patrolling thearea and writing tickets regardless.”

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said the fact that therewill be additional law enforcement on the road is not so much areason to be cautious as the fact that there will be increasedtraveling traffic.

“Of course there will be increased traffic and visitors in thecounty, as well as many more vehicles on the road,” he said. “So weencourage Lincoln County residents to be careful through theholiday season.”

Boyd said Troop M will be running extra details each day. Thatmeans up to 10 more troopers could be on the road at a given time,in addition to bringing out troopers who might not usually work thehighways.

“We’re putting more troopers out there, like me – guys thatdon’t normally work the road every day, and uniformed officers thatdo other functions,” he said. “Those guys come out and participateon these extra details. With that many more troopers out there, itmakes people keep safety in mind, and stay on their toes. It keepsthem honest.”

Boyd said the extra details will be set up in conjunction withnormal assignments for the troopers.

“During this time period, we also have the normal things, likethe line patrol assignments where a trooper works a certain stretchof highway from point A to point B,” he said. “Those are usuallytwo to three hours long, and the trooper goes and works that areathat we need to target for a high-traffic time period.”

Driver’s license checkpoints and roadblocks will be establishednot only throughout the county, but throughout all three statesduring the week, Boyd said.