Staff Writer 

Blair County DUI Task Force Targeting 'High Offense' Areas


April 11, 2019

Rick Boston

The Blair County DUI Task Force conducted a sobriety check point along Dunnings Highway, Freedom Township, on Friday, April 5. Officers made several arrests for impaired driving and issued citations for equipment violations.

The Blair County DUI Task Force was formed to keep the streets safe from impaired driving.

Comprised of state and local law enforcement, the task force identifies and targets areas that have a high number of crashes and impaired driving offenses.

According to Richard Oldham, co-coordinator of the Blair County DUI Task Force, areas of enforcement are chosen by looking at a number of factors.

"We pick the areas and then contact the police chief for that area, and he provides us with statistics to determine if we should set up a check point," he said. "We have to have the stats to support the reason we are out."

On Friday night, April 5, the task force set up a DUI check point along Dunnings Highway in Freedom Township.

According to Freedom Township Police Chief Terry Dellinger, Dunnings Highway has a high number of crashes and DUI offenses.

Dellinger said that between March 2016 and March 2019, there were 35 impaired-driving arrests and 309 vehicle accidents along Dunnings.

The check point, which was set up in front of the Southern Blair Senior Center, saw a steady stream of cars pass through from 10 p.m until 2 a.m.

"Every vehicle gets stopped," Dellinger said. "The officer will talk to the driver to see if there is any odor of alcohol or suspicious activity."

If impaired driving is suspected, or other violations discovered, officers stationed on the roadway direct the driver to pull into an area where other officers determine if an arrest is warranted.

Not long after the check point was set up on Friday, police noticed a scent of marijuana coming from a vehicle. Once the driver was safely pulled into the lot, Logan Township K-9 officer George Swander and his drug sniffing dog Ciro found what police called a "significant amount" of marijuana.

"We brought the dog out and he went around the car," Swander said. "He indicated a hit by his body movements and the way he changes breathing. He then sat and stared at where the marijuana was located."

Impaired driving isn't the only thing police look for at check points. Equipment violations, such as broken tail lights and other mechanical issues, expired inspections and registrations are also checked. These violations usually result in a written warning to make the necessary repairs.

On Friday night, an expired inspection sticker that would normally result in a written warning turned into the driver being detained until a ride home could be secured when it was discovered she was also driving while her license was suspended.

Friday night's check point was manned by officers from Freedom Township, Greenfield Township, Blair Township, Allegheny Township and Hollidaysburg Borough police departments, along with troopers from the Pa. State Police.

The Freedom Township Volunteer Fire Department provided the lighting and had members on scene to ensure the safety of the officers.

Oldham said community support helps make the check points successful, pointing out that Amtran of Altoona provided a bus where officers could go to warm up and eat some food donated by Olive Garden.

Officers participating in the check points are off duty, most of whom had already worked a full shift that day. Oldham said it shows the dedication police have to making the roads safe.

By the end of the night police had made 404 individual contacts, issuing 98 citations or warnings for vehicular violations, four arrests for impaired driving, four people were cited for small amounts of marijuana and paraphernalia and one arrest was made for possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. Officers also served one bench warrant.

Oldham said that check points are an effective way to combat impaired driving, and that with all the ride options out there, no one should get behind the wheel after drinking.

"It is absolutely effective," he said. "If they see us out here they will think twice about driving under the influence. It lets people know we are here and they don't want to take a chance driving impaired and running into us. There is no reason for impaired driving now with taxis and Ubers and other things. There are too many options out there for people to get a ride."


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