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Law enforcement agencies launch major drunken driving crackdown

April 24, 2009

The parents of Jennifer Bukosky were flanked by law enforcement officers from several agencies Friday to announce a series of patrol crackdowns on drunken drivers scheduled to start Saturday, the one-year anniversary of the death of Bukosky and two of her children.

The crackdown will have some similarities to the stepped-up enforcement efforts made during holiday periods. But the new program will involve more officers than those holiday efforts, and agencies will coordinate more closely, organizers said.

The program, named the National Model Drunk Driving Enforcement Initiative, also should make it easier to catch motorists who try to evade law enforcement officers so they're not caught drunken driving.

Bukosky was killed along with her unborn daughter and her 10-year-old daughter, Courtney Bella, after a former physician, Mark Benson, drove into the back of her Honda on Highway 67 at Pabst Road in Oconomowoc on April 25, 2008. Two other children were injured in the crash but survived.

Benson faces three counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle as well as other charges connected to those injured in the crash.

Judy Jenkins, Bukosky's mother, thanked the officers who met in January to make arrangements for the joint effort.

"People need to know something is going to happen to them," she said.

The enforcement initiative is under the lead direction of the Milwaukee County sheriff's office, which patrols interstates in Milwaukee County, and includes the Wisconsin State Patrol, which patrols interstates outside the county. It will involve 11 other agencies in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.

Wisconsin is one of only 12 states that does not allow sobriety checkpoints that allow officers to pull over vehicles and check for drunken driving even if the motorists hasn't broken any traffic laws. So organizers note that "high visibility OWI enforcement is necessary to save lives in Wisconsin."

Sheriff's deputies have noticed some suspicious motorists will see the lights from a patrol car and exit the highway, driving off into another law enforcement jurisdiction.

The enforcement initiative will make it easier to coordinate with other agencies so they can track a vehicle that's trying to avoid officers, said William Brown, supervisor of the Milwaukee County sheriff's OWI Task Force.

"We're going to have every interstate ramp covered," Brown said.

Agencies also would work together to move patrols to problem areas, the sergeant said.

Law enforcement agencies will have the stepped-up enforcement efforts twice a month. After Saturday, the next joint efforts are scheduled for May 15, May 23, June 5 and June 30.

Dozens of arrests made

During an April 10 trial run of the initiative, the task force removed more than 31 suspected drunken drivers from the roads, officials said.

Paul Jenkins, Bukosky's stepfather, said legislators in Madison need to change laws to give officers more power to go after drunken drivers. Wisconsin is the only state where a first drunken-driving conviction is not a criminal offense. But Paul Jenkins applauded the initiative and said he hopes other agencies in the state start something similar.

"It's going to take something like this to make the public perk up their ears a little bit," he said.

Agencies involved in the task force are the sheriff's offices from both Milwaukee and Waukesha counties and police in Bayside, City of Brookfield, Town of Brookfield, Cudahy, Franklin, Glendale, South Milwaukee, St. Francis, Wauwatosa and West Allis as well as the Wisconsin State Patrol.

More on drunken driving Read the Journal Sentinel's Wasted in Wisconsin series at www.jsonline.com/wasted.

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