Transport program made New Year’s Eve safer.
For its third consecutive year, sheriff’s deputies in Macon County kept roads safer during the New Year for Operation Think Twice.
With no questions asked, party-goers were given rides by deputies after calling the Macon County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) to request a ride home. “Think Twice,” a local initiative seeking to lower the rate of drinking and driving during the New Year’s celebrations, has seen moderate success in recent years. From 9 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 6 a.m. on Jan. 1, the public was encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office to request a ride.
This year, deputies saw an increase in both requests and drunk driving violations. Eighty-five individuals called the MCSO and requested a ride home. A total of five DWIs were reported throughout the county. Last year, 51 people were transported to their destinations by officers assigned to the operation, and four DWIs were reported.
“It went well this year,” remarked Sheriff Robert Holland. “It was a really good turnout. There were a lot more people that asked us for a ride this year, and there were no questions asked ... I think it’s catching on. We kept up our end of the bargain.”
To promote the operation, posters and fliers had been distributed around the county at alcohol-selling establishments and notices were given on social networking sites such as Facebook. People were encouraged to call the MCSO, where an officer specifically assigned to take their calls would record basic information, such as their location and their destination.
The increase in the use of the operation was encouraging, according to Holland. “I think it works, and that’s what police work is all about,” he said. “There were some individuals who did decide to drink and drive, and they ended up going to jail.”
The MCSO set up three separate traffic checkpoints on New Year’s Eve and were assisted by the Franklin Police Department and the North Carolina Highway Patrol.
Holland added that other incidents of alcohol-related domestic violence were reported, but those individuals had not entered a vehicle.
Think Twice wasn’t too costly to the taxpayer. The operation was implemented for the cost of just five deputies working nine hours. “It probably cost somewhere around $1,000. In the long run, it cost a heck of a lot less than having a drunk driver on the road.”
Holland maintained that those who participated in the program were certainly inebriated, albeit polite.
“The people we picked up were very polite and grateful that we have this program,” Holland continued. “They were very complimentary of our officers. Not one of the 85 people that called us should have been driving and we appreciate them calling us,” he said, lauding the program and community at large for being “proactive” in increasing traffic safety.
Josh Drake, part owner of Franklin’s Mulligans Bar & Grill, was impressed with the operation.
“Robbie Holland’s crew provided a great public service and no doubt saved lives on New Year’s Eve by driving people home,” he said. “I commend and thank him.”
The operation did prove to be amusingly difficult at times, according to Holland. “There was one incident where we had two females that called in, and they were very intoxicated and gave us the wrong address,” he said, explaining that officers got lost trying to find the inebriated callers. “They called two or three times and we couldn’t understand them but then finally found them… They definitely shouldn’t have been driving,” he laughed.
“I think it’s really cool that the sheriff’s office is doing it,” said Anna Weeks, who got a lift from law enforcement around 3 a.m. “I couldn’t believe it when I first heard about it.” Weeks added that she was skeptical of the service at first, but after hearing so much about it, she decided to give it a try.
For those officers who participated in the operation, Holland gave his thanks, along with the restaurants that donated food to transport officers. “Several businesses donated food, so our officers had lots to eat while transporting folks,” he said, namely Fatz and Mulligans. “We would like to thank those businesses as well.”