Area police and community members are ramping up their efforts to prevent DUI crashes and underage drinking with education, checkpoints and more training for authorities, according to members of Horry County Community Action for a Safer Tomorrow Coalition.
The group, also known as CAST, announced Tuesday that since March 1 they have held 46 checkpoints and 18 saturation patrols and written 323 charges including 50 driving under the influence cases, said Jeff Benton, Horry County CAST chairman.
“The amount of violations we have come across since March 1 is tremendous,” said Benton, who is also a deputy sheriff with the Horry County Sheriff’s Office. “The prevention, education and community involvement sets it aside from any other effort.”
The group’s members are law enforcement officers from area police departments such as Aynor, Coastal Carolina University, Horry County police, S.C. Highway Patrol, Loris, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach. Representatives from the Horry County School District, 911, Solicitor’s Office, Project Lighthouse, Seahaven, Shoreline Behavioral Health Services, and Trio180i also are involved.
“The more we do together, the better and more effective we are,” Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson said.
The idea to form a coalition to address DUIs follows in the footsteps of drug units and organized crime units because those crimes do not occur in just one jurisdiction, Surfside Beach Chief Mike Frederick said.
“This is a perfect problem to throw a taskforce at,” Frederick said. “We cannot be as effective by ourselves as we can with each other. We can’t wall off Surfside Beach and expected to be as effective. It’s a natural progression.”
Coalition members go to different communities and do saturation patrols and traffic safety checkpoints.
“The interagency cooperation has been outstanding,” 15th Circuit Solicitor Greg Hembree said.
Witnessing such cooperation between agencies and community members has been the “pinnacle of my career,” said Sgt. Don Causey with the Highway Patrol.
“We all know the tragedies associated with DUIs and it cannot be tolerated. It has to be stopped,” Causey said.
Horry County authorities received a federal grant to implement the group, said Jessie Marlowe, coordinator for Horry County’s CAST Coalition. The five year grant is in its fourth year, which is the first full year of implementation, she said. Officials received $165,000 to implement the program.
The funding also covers overtime for officers working traffic safety checkpoints or saturation patrols to prevent DUI-related crashes and underage drinking, Benton said.
“This is costing the taxpayers nothing,” Benton said.
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723.