In order to curb major traffic violations that regularly occur on Interstate 35, Denton police will be on patrol in full force for 35 consecutive hours starting today.
Officer Ryan Grelle said the department will have extra officers on duty from 4 p.m. Friday through 3 a.m. Sunday, working all directions of I-35, I-35E and I-35W as part of its “35 on 35” program.
At least nine extra officers will be on patrol, officials said.
Grelle said the purpose is to have officers on duty to help those traveling along the interstate to do so as safely as possible by looking for intoxicated drivers and other traffic violators.
“We hope that this will reduce the number of crashes we work over this 35-hour period,” Grelle said.
Traffic Sgt. Daryn Briggs said there has been a 9 percent increase in motor vehicle crashes — minor and major — this year.
In addition, driving while intoxicated arrests from January through Aug. 23 of this year are up 39 percent compared to last year at the same time, he said.
“We have already had 445 alcohol-related arrests this year,” Briggs said. “Last year, we only had 546 for the whole year.”
Officials say they believe the increase in arrests is partially a result of the implementation of the new computer program LEADRS. The program helps with compiling forms and creating a system that integrates, consolidates and simplifies the required reporting information for DUI/DWI arrests while working with existing record management systems to ensure a smooth integration process, according to information on the LEADRS website, www.leadrs.org.
Police said that they have been successful at smaller patrol efforts, but this is the department’s first time to take on something as large as the “35 on 35” initiative.
The idea, Briggs said, was suggested by one of the other patrol officers who thought it was a good idea and just ran with it.
With the additional officers patrolling the interstate and service roads, Briggs said he believes they will accomplish their goal to keep the roads safe.
“The regular two to three officers working patrol that night will still be on duty so our interstate patrol doesn’t have to be pulled away from their assigned duty,” Briggs said.
Briggs said a lot of people want to start the holiday weekend early and will be heading out today as soon as they get off work and pick their children up from school.
“People tend to all leave at once, creating that traffic jam on the highway,” he said. “Then they all stagger in at different times over the weekend. ... Hopefully, with the beefed-up patrol, this will not only keep things running smoothly, but maybe even save lives.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.