Multi-agency checkpoint zeros in on DWIs
Law enforcement officers from Forest City, Spindale, Lake Lure and the Sheriff's Office combined forces on Friday evening to implement a DWI (driving while impaired) checkpoint in Forest City, zeroing in on drunk drivers.
Following a short briefing at the Forest City Police Department at 8:30 p.m., officers gathered their reflective vests, flashlights and other gear before departing to the first checkpoint location near the intersection of Riverside Drive and Old Caroleen Road in Forest City.
"Every vehicle gets checked, from school buses to 18-wheelers," Forest City Capt. Donnie Hensley told officers. "We are writing citations tonight, not warnings."
From 9 p.m. Friday until 1 a.m. Saturday, officers stopped all vehicles traveling through the intersection, and later at a second checkpoint on South Broadway Street near Forrest Hunt Elementary School.
"There is really no rhyme or reason to selecting the locations for the checkpoints," Hensley said. "It is just a random selection of a site within our city limits. We try to find new locations to try out, because if you get complacent and just go to one site all the time, then intoxicated drivers know to avoid that location."
Although no DWI arrests were made during the four hours, officers issued 10 citations with a total of 12 charges, including driving while license revoked, inspection violations, expired tags and no operator's license.
The multi-agency checkpoint provided law enforcement access to a BATMobile, a mobile breath-alcohol testing unit used to increase the efficiency of on-site DWI processing.
"We haven't had the BATMobile in our agency for at least eight years," Hensley said. "We are fortunate to now have one here in the western part of the state, and we are going to be utilizing it as much as we can."
The BATMobile used in Friday's DWI checkpoint is stationed out of Asheville and is supervised and driven by Chad Towery, who has operated the vehicle since October 2013.
Towery said the BATMobile is out at area checkpoints Wednesday through Saturday evenings.
"This is one of seven BATMobiles in North Carolina, and I'm assigned to a coverage area in western North Carolina," said Towery, who also works as a school resource officer in Burke County.
The BATMobile Towery supervises is equipped with three workstations for Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test instruments, computers, printers, cellular phones, screening test devices, magistrates' work area and all other necessary equipment and supplies for processing DWI suspects.
"On board, I set up all the testing instruments and provide all the necessary paperwork for law enforcement officers to process DWIs," Towery said.
In addition to providing services at sobriety checkpoints, BATMobiles are involved in educational events. Towery plans to coordinate with the Forest City Police Department to have the BATMobile at this year's Kids and Cops festival in June.
"We're trying to put the word out in the community that this BATMobile is ready and available to help agencies work together to save lives," Towery said.
Sobriety checkpoints are continually set up in all North Carolina counties as part of the state's highly effective anti-drunk driving campaign. The Forest City Police Department plans to have another DWI checkpoint utilizing the BATMobile in the near future.
"I want to thank all of the participating agencies for their dedication and determination in keeping the roads safe for the citizens of Rutherford County," Hensley said.