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NEWS STORIES

Oneida Co. Sheriff's Office beefing up St. Pat's patrolsSubmitted: 03/14/2013
Story By Lane Kimble


RHINELANDER - Don't expect to get away with drinking and driving this weekend.

On a weekend when everyone's a little Irish, the Oneida County Sheriff's Office wants you to be more than a little smart.

Oneida County will beef up drunk driving and seatbelt enforcement the entire weekend. They're able to do that thanks to a $12,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Sheriff's Lieutenant Lloyd Gauthier knows the holiday brings out many more people than an average weekend.

"The possibility of people driving while impaired, and that concerns us," Lt. Gauthier said.

"Our motto at the Sheriff's Office is we're committed to our community. And a big commitment is safety. Wanting people to get out and enjoy the time, have a good time. But take advantage of the programs that are out there through the Oneida County Tavern League, including the Safe Ride Home program."

That Safe Ride program is available at any participating Tavern League Bar. All you have to do is ask a bartender for your free ride.

Lt. Gauthier says people seem to be drinking more responsibly the last few years.

But he also points to a disturbing statistic: more than 500 traffic deaths in Wisconsin last year.

"That's why the DOT is so focused on getting these grants out each year," Gauthier said. "They see that there is a positive side to it with additional enforcement that those numbers are coming down."

The DOT gives out the grants based on where they see roadways that could be safer.

This grant is broad. That means Sheriff's Patrols could be on any road, both county and city or town.

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MINOCQUA - You can find tourists all over the Northwoods already for the holiday weekend.

That means area police departments are busy making sure everyone stays safe.

The Minocqua Police Department has all of their officers working extended hours on July 4th, but the police chief says they worry more about safety than law enforcement.

"[The] 4th of July is more family-oriented," says Minocqua Chief of Police Dave Jaeger. "You have a lot of families down there with their children, so we're down there to make sure that it's a safe environment."

Places like Minocqua will be packed with people this weekend, so police just want to make sure holiday events go on safely.

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A proposal passed by a Capitol committee on Thursday night could help SafeRide Home.

It would add a $50 surcharge to some OWI offenses. That money would go back into SafeRide Home programs.

The proposal is part of the state budget, which has yet to become law.

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