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September 1, 2021 - 7:07pm

Genesee County STOP-DWI, despite understaffed police agencies, gears up for a busy 2022 as courts reopen

stop_dwi_logo.pngThe Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon recommended approval of the county’s 2022 STOP-DWI plan that seeks an appropriation of $160,910, but not before the program coordinator highlighted the need for more police officers.

“It’s an amazing program,” Assistant Manager Tammi Ferringer said, thanking personnel from the three participating agencies – County Sheriff’s Office, City of Batavia Police Department and Le Roy Police Department – for their efforts in conducting special details in support of STOP-DWI.

But just as quickly, speaking at the meeting at the Old County Courthouse, she noted “the biggest challenge” was that these departments are short-staffed.

“Each agency needs to be commended for changing their schedules (to work the details),” she said. “The officers really gave their all.”

The three police agencies continue to conduct routine enforcement nights with sobriety checkpoints, often resulting in DWI/DWAI arrests, she said, but noted that primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, total DWI arrests dropped from 115 in 2019 to 72 in 2020.

Thus far in 2021, however, arrests are trending upward, prompting Ferringer to believe the yearly total will equal or exceed the 2019 number.

She reported that law enforcement participated in all statewide crackdown events (eight of them in all) during the period of Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021, making 205 vehicle stops. Furthermore, grant funding was used for callouts of local Drug Recognition Experts to help assist officers investigating impaired driving.

One hundred percent of STOP-DWI’s activities is funded from the collection of fines collected from DWI/DWAI offenses, Ferringer said, noting that many arrests are made during normal operationof law enforcement. STOP-DWI provides enhanced activities.

While she is budgeting for $160,910, the program currently has about $100,000 in its account.

Ferringer reported a decline in revenue from $163,418 in 2020 to (projected) $119,063 this year, but foresees an increase in 2022 as the courts reopen and more and more pending cases are adjudicated.

“There’s a backlog in the courts,” she said, adding that judges are “scared” as they see the caseload before them and try to prepare for the impending rush.

She also informed the committee that New York State is changing its terminology – moving away from “crackdown period” and replacing that with “high visibility engagement campaign.” The Labor Day/End of Summer HVEC is running now, through Sept. 6.

As she wrapped up her presentation, County Legislator Gordon Dibble, who represents the towns of Pembroke and Darien, said the Village of Corfu Police Department may be looking to re-enter the STOP-DWI program.

Ferringer’s budget request is expected to be on the agenda of the full legislature’s next meeting on Sept. 8.

Other program highlights are as follows:

  • Genesee Justice monitors first-time DWI offenders (non-aggravated) who have received a Conditional Discharge as long as they participate in a one-year monitoring program that includes reporting regularly to a case worker, undergoing an alcohol screening and counseling program, refraining from drinking alcohol and taking part in an intense program for behavior modification aimed at changing attitudes on drinking and driving. It also monitors Leandra Law convictions where the ignition interlock device is ordered on the vehicle.

  • Genesee County probation officers provide necessary DWI enforcement activities and enhanced EtG (ethyl glucuronide) alcohol testing for monitored individuals. The department is monitoring an average of 175 DWI offenders per month and has reported 50 violations year to date, which is up slightly from 172 in 2020 with 80 violations amidst pandemic response and shut down.

  • Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse provide case management services, including an accountability component, follow up to the court and referrals to community resources. GCASA’s Victim Impact Panel brings DWI offenders and victims together for offenders to hear first-hand how a DWI crash impacted the lives of others.

  • STOP-DWI’s education and prevention component includes participation by the Youth Bureau, leading to the use of images of the local law enforcement agencies for a new billboard to remind the community to not drink and drive. The image will also be used in the future for post cards and other educational handouts. Also, it conducted an adult campaign during the winter holiday season, partnering with local liquor stores to provide them with liquor bags with safe messages to remind the community to not drink and drive. In 2020, six liquor stores were provided 5,800 bags.

  • The program’s poster contest winners were acknowledged, as youth and “top cops” were recognized with t-shirts, gift cards, commendations as well as banners with their artwork/pictures on them to display. Brooke Jarkiewicz and Grace Shepard, 11th graders at Byron-Bergen High School were the grand prize winners, and their design was featured on a billboard for a month during the winter holiday season.

  • In July, a “Night at the Ballpark” took place at Dwyer Stadium, supported by the Batavia Muckdogs. Law enforcement personnel joined with county staff and representatives of human services agencies to assist at the heavily attended event.

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