Press-Republican

March 12, 2013

STOP DWI tackles new initiatives

By FELICIA KRIEG
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Ads featuring a grim reaper, sickle and tombstone will appear on Clinton County Public Transportation buses later this month.

“If you drink and drive, your name could go here,” the slogan says.

That’s one Clinton County STOP-DWI initiative so far this year — others include support for state legislation that would crack down on underage drinking and more education for the public.

At a recent meeting of the STOP-DWI Advisory Board, members talked statistics, including 691 driving-while-intoxicated arrests for ages 17 through 73 in Clinton County last year.

Forty-seven of those arrests were of young people ages 17 through 20 — 87.2 percent of them were men.

As well, committee data showed:

▶ 13 were arrested for DWI in January, by either the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, State Police or SUNY Plattsburgh University Police.

▶ The Clinton County Probation Department was supervising 227 DWI cases; 120 felonies and 107 misdemeanors.

▶ In January, $3,837.77 in DWI fine money was collected in Clinton County.

▶ A Leandra’s Law (Child Passenger Protection Act) conditional discharge was in effect for 205 Clinton County residents; 50 of them have to use Ignition Interlock.

▶ Clinton County Mental Health and Addiction Services was treating 104 clients, and 72 were enrolled in pre-admission.

SADD PROGRAM FUNDS

As of the Feb. 21 meeting, five local schools had applied for STOP-DWI awards of $375, available to those that have Students Against Destructive Decisions Program (SADD) programs: Chazy Central Rural School; AuSable Valley, Northeastern Clinton, Northern Adirondack and Saranac central schools. 

The money is available to any Clinton County school that has a SADD group.

As well, all high schools in the county had applied for $1,000 in funding for a nonalcoholic after-prom party as of the Advisory Board’s deadline, except for Seton Academy. Principal Sister Helen Hermann told STOP-DWI the students did not wish to have a party.

UNDERAGE LEGISLATION

Representatives from the Clinton County District Attorney’s Office, Mental Health and Addiction Services, local law-enforcement agencies and STOP-DWI Coordinator Sgt. Frank Mercier collaborated with local liquor-store owners and discussed their joint support for future state legislation that would discourage underage people from attempting to purchase alcohol. 

Attending the session were Steve Carpenter, owner of Liquor and Wine Warehouse in Plattsburgh; Rick Latour of Gioiosa’s Wine & Spirits; Matt Nephew of Nephew’s Liquor and Wine in Champlain; and Dennis Bardelsic, proprietor of Smithfield Liquor and Wine in Plattsburgh — they expressed support for the effort to prompt state legislation that would discourage those underage from trying to purchase alcohol.

‘FINES TOO LOW’

The board came to these conclusions:

▶ Fines should be increased, as they are not high enough and charges are not severe enough to deter young people from trying to illegally buy alcohol.

▶ Publication of arrests and penalties associated with driving-while-intoxicated charges could discourage underage people from breaking the law.

▶ Increased education for secondary and college students and the general public could also help, since many are ignorant of the laws and penalties associated with using fake IDs or when adults buy alcohol for those not old enough to get it themselves. Businesses that sell alcohol to minors are penalized more severely than the underage purchaser, it was noted.

▶ A large percentage of illegal alcohol purchasers are college students. The problem can be combated with campus television and radio commercials, posters and education in the classroom, members said.

▶ State Sen. Betty Little and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey will be invited to the next Advisory Board meeting to discuss possible legislation to address the purchasing of alcohol by those who are younger than 21.

The next session is 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office in Plattsburgh. 

It is open to the public.

Email Felicia Krieg:fkrieg@pressrepublican.com