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Paynesville Press - April 9, 2003

Stearns County to be part of DWI crackdown

Sixty percent of the state's alcohol-related traffic fatalities from 1998 to 2000 occurred in just 13 of Minnesota's 87 counties.

As a result, law enforcement in those counties - including Stearns County - is making arresting impaired drivers a priority from this spring to next fall.

"Victims of impaired drivers are victims of violent crime," said Rich Stanek, Commissioner of Public Safety, whose office is coordinating efforts with the Minnesota State Patrol, county sheriff offices, and local police departments. The effort - dubbed ACE for alcohol concentrated enforcement - is part of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Safe & Sober program that is designed to reduce traffic crashes, injuries, and deaths in Minnesota. Counties involved include six in the metro area - Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington - and seven in greater Minnesota - Cass, Crow Wing, Olmsted, Otter Tail, St. Louis, Stearns, and Wright.

In these counties during the three-year period from 1998 to 2000, 11,416 alcohol-related crashes resulted in 315 deaths and 8,424 injuries. There were also 42,502 DWI arrests in those counties during that period.

In Stearns County from 1998 to 2000, 528 alcohol-related crashes resulted in 16 fatalities and 308 injuries. In Stearns County, 1,788 DWI arrests were made in that three-year period.

"We know where and when the greatest incidence of impaired driving occurs," said Kathy Swanson, director of the Office of Traffic Safety. "Obviously, we're not going to ignore the other 74 counties, but we are increasing our effort and resources in these areas - including unannounced enforcement saturations."

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