New Year's Eve, Fourth of July and St. Patrick's Day are all big drinking holidays. But one of the largest celebrations involving alcohol use happens the night before Thanksgiving.
College students head home and often hit the bars or gather for parties. Family members in town for a visit are kicking off their holiday celebrations.
But when they hit the road after partying, that's when the problems start and a happy homecoming becomes a tragedy.
"Go have a good time, just don't drive," said Wauwatosa Police Department Lt. Tim Sharpee, who wants people to arrange for a designated driver, bus or taxi to get home.
Those who do get behind the wheel intoxicated will get caught, he said. The Southeast Wisconsin Multi-Jurisdictional Drunk Driving Task Force will be out from 8 p.m. Nov. 25 to 4 a.m. Nov. 26 looking for impaired drivers.
In addition to the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office and numerous suburban police departments in the task force, other law enforcement agencies, primarily to the west, are getting involved on this one. Hartland, Waukesha, Delafield, Pewaukee and Jefferson County have all pledged support. Brown County in northeast Wisconsin will also hold its own targeted enforcement that night.
"We're starting to branch out to other parts of the state," Sharpee said. "We really want to have from Milwaukee to Madison covered."
In the Wauwatosa area, all the interstates, highways and major roadways will be patrolled.
In recent months, there have been several people killed by drunken drivers around the state. Letting people know the police mean business could help prevent further alcohol-related deaths, Sharpee said.
"We really want people to know this is what we're doing, so they plan ahead and make this holiday a safe one," he added.
Since the creation of the task force, 1,166 drunken drivers have been removed from southeast Wisconsin roadways. There likely will be a deployment during the Christmas season and New Year's Eve. Typically, the task force operates twice per month, but a bump in grant dollars to each of the participating agencies could mean more frequent deployments in 2011.
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