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Costa Mesa cutting number of drunk-driving checkpoints

November 29, 2011 |  8:32 am

While many cities step up drunk-driving checkpoints during the holiday season, Costa Mesa police are conducting fewer of them.

Police instead are focusing on saturation patrols that assign more police officers to target drunk drivers on a given night — which, council members and police say, is more effective in catching drunk drivers.

Last year, the Police Department mounted 20 checkpoints, and in 2011 the department has conducted half that many, Sgt. Phil Myers said.

Checkpoints and saturation patrols often require overtime, which state grants typically cover, Myers said.

While DUI checkpoints usually require 14 officers, saturation patrols require half as many, Myers said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer said the decision to reduce checkpoints was based on findings from newly appointed Chief Tom Gazsi, who demonstrated to council members that saturation patrols are more effective.

According to Gazsi, saturation patrols free up officers, who can also respond to emergencies.

"It's a logical decision based on getting the most with less personnel," Gazsi told the Daily Pilot.

Righeimer said the beefed up patrols can result in the arrests of two to three times as many drunk drivers than the checkpoints, which are more educational in nature.

"They just get a lot more drunks off the road," Righeimer said.

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-- Lauren Williams, Times Community News

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