With the grant year less than a month old, the Mahoning County OVI Task Force is making strides with two events yielding positive results.
The Task Force, under coordinator and Assistant Canfield police Chief Scott Weamer, staged a coordinated saturation patrol blitz in Boardman on Oct. 22. Weamer said Boardman is one of three target zones for driving while impaired. In Boardman, the number of fatalities has risen this year.
“Prior to this year’s three suspected impaired driving fatalities, we had not had a single impaired driving fatality since 2006,” said Sgt. John Allsopp from the Boardman Police Department. “The numbers don’t lie in that we have seen a significant increase in overall and impaired driving fatalities this year.”
Allsopp said this year, just within the last 10 months, Boardman has seen five, possibly six, fatalities. His department is awaiting the ruling of the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office that could result in the fatalities jumping to six.
It is numbers like these that has Weamer looking at Boardman, Austintown and Youngstown.
“We pick the locations based on data,” Weamer said. “While we want to focus on Austintown, Boardman, and Youngstown, we won’t be confined to those communities. We will spread out to other communities as well.”
“When one of our officers involved in the Boardman blitz approaches a vehicle, he doesn’t say he is a Canfield officer,” Weamer said. “He introduces himself as an officer with the Mahoning County OVI Task Force."
Weamer said all the officers taking part in the Task Force are sworn in as county police officers by the Mahoning County sheriff. That gives them authority to make an arrest anywhere in the county.
Weamer continued, “The sheriff has been very supportive of our efforts. We couldn’t do it without his help.”
In the blitz, such as the one in Boardman, the officers meet ahead of time and form a plan. The plan on Oct. 22 was to saturate the entire township as opposed to targeting one smaller area. That meant 13 additional patrol cars joined Boardman’s regular patrol officers as they looked for motorists who may be impaired.
When that Boardman blitz was over, officers had made 54 stops, arrested five drivers for operating a vehicle while impaired), made one drug possession arrest and took into custody a person wanted by Boardman police.
On Oct. 29, the Task Force continued their efforts by setting up a checkpoint. This is different than a saturation blitz in that officers set up at a specific location, then stop all vehicles coming through the checkpoint. A diversion area is set up for motorists suspected of drinking and driving so as to not tie up all motorists.
Weamer said the Youngstown event took place on Market Street on the South Side and saw 434 vehicles go through it from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Of that number, 17 vehicles were diverted to a holding area where there were two arrests for OVI, two for driving while under suspension and numerous citations. That took the total OVI arrests to seven in just over a week.
Weamer said it is working and getting the grant back this year was a big plus. The grant year runs from the beginning of October through the end of next September. The Goshen police hosted the task force for several years until Mahoning County lost the grant last year. The grant was again made available when the fatality numbers rose this year and the Canfield Police Department accepted the role of host agency.
Weamer said the plan is to hold 12 checkpoints this year.