A drunk driving task force is being put together by police departments across Lorain County.
So far, Wellington, Amherst, Lorain, Elyria, and Avon have been confirmed as part of the venture. It would give select officers jurisdiction past department boundaries to help curb the area’s growing problem with impaired driving and its consequences.
Wellington police Lt. Jeff Shelton laid out the village’s plans to join the task force earlier this month.
“The officers are going to work on their days off,” he said. “We’re going to have one meeting in June where each department will send a set number of guys to be sworn in under the sheriff’s department. This will make them deputies that have authority throughout the county.”
All hours committed to the task force will be reimbursed by the state.
Hours set aside will be determined for each participating department with no arrest quotas being used. Initial plans call for a predominant focus on road patrol but checkpoints could also become part of the project, according to Shelton.
“They could say Wellington gets 20 hours,” he said. “So during that event, they would be down here for two days in the the village and outside the village.”
North Ridgeville will act as the task force’s hub, said Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh of the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office.
“All the administrative functions like keeping time sheets and statistics will be handled in North Ridgeville,” he said. “The state highway patrol will also be heavily involved,” he said. “Availability of this grant is based off of fatality accidents and DUI arrests.”
A desire for better coordination between departments and statistical support led to the creation of the task force. Grant money to fund the project is still pending, but should be approved very soon, according to Cavanaugh.
It’s a $225,000 grant, said North Ridgeville police chief Michael Freeman. May 15 was the deadline to apply for the money and he expects to know shortly whether Lorain County will get the award.
Freeman added that a spike in Lorain County drunk driving incidents led to the grant proposal and that distribution of officers will be based on statistical need.
He declined to comment on the full list of Lorain County police departments taking part in the task force.
“Unfortunately, this is a problem-based grant and a result of DUI fatalities being up in the county,” he said. “There are numerous problem areas. Obviously, that can be somewhat population-based. Everything is data-driven, so we’re not going to be sitting somewhere just to sit somewhere. This is a three-to-four-year opportunity for us to hit these areas hard and get this thing under control.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise
Wellington, Amherst, Lorain, Elyria, and Avon police have committed to creating a county DUI task force.