North Huntingdon police chief to apply for grant for DUI checkpoints

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The North Huntingdon police chief will apply for a grant that would pay for either stationary DUI checkpoints or extra officers to pull over suspected drunken drivers for violations.

At last week's township commissioners' meeting, board members were divided as to whether the township should do the stationary stops, in which officers pull over all drivers on a road -- usually late at night -- to try to find drunken drivers.

Police Chief Andrew Lisiecki suggested that the township apply for the grant.

Neighboring North Versailles uses stationary checkpoints frequently on its portion of busy Route 30, he pointed out.

The grant, if awarded, would be administered in conjunction with Penn Township, Manor, Trafford, Jeannette and possibly Irwin, he said. Some DUI checkpoints might also be set up in those communities, and officers from all those departments would work together on the sites.

Commissioner Rich Gray said people in the business community are not in favor of stationary DUI checkpoints.

"I know people who had just one drink and avoid North Versailles like the plague," he said.

"Basically, I agree with [checkpoints]," Commissioner Tony Martino said. "I would not like to have someone hit my loved one, and I would have to respond to it with the fire department."

Mr. Martino is president of Circleville Fire Department.

Commissioner Dave Herold said police officers have found drugs, and people not wearing seat belts, at stationary DUI stops.

"I think it's a good thing. If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about," Mr. Herold said.

Mr. Gray said citizens can lose their freedoms one step at a time through mechanisms such as police checkpoints.

Chief Lisiecki said he worked at DUI checkpoints in Pittsburgh and made 50 drunken driving arrests in one year at the checkpoints alone.

He said 10 to 12 officers would be needed for stationary checkpoints, and "roving checkpoints" would add two to three officers per area to stop potential drunken drivers for moving violations, usually on Friday and Saturday nights.

During such checkpoints, a phlebotomist to take alcohol blood samples would work at the North Huntingdon police station.

Chief Lisiecki noted that the township would "have to advertise you will be doing it."

He said that in 2011 28 DUI-related crashes occurred in the township. From January to the end of June this year, there were 22 crashes involving alcohol, he said.

Township manager John Shepherd reported that Commissioners' Chairman Lee Moffatt, who was absent, said he is not in favor of stationary checkpoints.

Commissioners Donald Austin and Zach Haigis and Mr. Herold and Mr. Martino voted to apply for the grant, and Commissioner Brian West and Mr. Gray were opposed.

The grant application is due in May. It would provide for stationary and extra roving DUI stops from October 2013 to September 2014, Mr. Lisiecki said.

• Commissioners decided to change the township's "work order" system to include more suggestions by residents.

An item on the work order list could be something as simple as fixing a pothole or replacing a sign. Mr. Shepherd said repeated requests for something, such as keeping a park open later in the evening, should prompt officials to pay attention.

If residents request a repair be made on a state road, township officials could call PennDOT on their behalf, he said.

neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland

Anne Cloonan, freelance: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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