Police services send unified message during...
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Dec 02, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Police services send unified message during Festive RIDE

Stratford Gazette

Sean Meyer  smeyer@metroland.com

Officers with four area police services came together on Friday, Nov. 29 to remind people who choose to drive impaired during this festive season that they will be looking for them.

Members of the OPP West Region and the London, St. Thomas and Stratford police services helped launch this year’s Festive RIDE program. Police set up a RIDE check outside London’s Green Hills Golf and Country Club, on Colonel Talbot Road, just north of Highway 402, to share their message of sober driving with their most important partner — the community at large.

Insp. Sam Theocharis of the Stratford Police Service said the “multi-jurisdictional initiative,” is all through Ontario, across Canada. Stratford police actually launched their Festive RIDE campaign last week, teaming up with the OPP, before helping out with the effort in London.

“We have had a long partnership with OPP, London, Aylmer, St. Thomas, Strathroy and Woodstock, in the Four Counties Initiative as far as traffic goes,” Theocharis said.

“Now we are expanding that to Festive RIDE.”

Theocharis said the impaired driving stats “go up and down.” Last year in Stratford, police saw a spike of about 10 per cent whereas to this point in 2013, the number of charges is lower over the same period.

It is a trend Theocharis said shows a solid commitment by the community at large.

“It is an educational process and we are trying to get the message out that drinking and driving is socially unacceptable,” Theocharis said. “There are other alternatives and it is a crime that can be prevented.”

Besides statistics, another indicator of changing attitudes can be found by the response of those stopped during various RIDE checks — festive or otherwise. The majority of the people stopped express what Theocharis called “a very positive” attitude.

“You have the people who are upset about being stopped, but for the most part there is a lot of positive out there,” Theocharis said. “It is impressive to see how many people are actually thanking us for getting the message out. It is nice to see when we stop a vehicle with young children, the parents generally explain to the children about what is going on.”

Supt. Dan Redmond, West Region OPP, agreed the Festive RIDE launch is about public awareness because officers are always on the lookout for those who drink and drive. However, the message is even more important during the festive season.

“It is a good time to get the message across with staff parties and get-togethers with family,” Redmond said. “You arrange for a sober driver, you get a taxi, in the city there is public transit; it is a conscious choice to drink and drive. Before people go out in the evening to have a good time, they have to think about 1 a.m., 2 a.m., and how they are going to get home.”

Redmond has been with the OPP for 28 years and said he believes the message is getting across. Statistically, Redmond said police are seeing a decrease, but there are still people taking the chance and he continues to not understand why.

And while there are plenty of sober drivers to thank for making the right choices, the struggle goes on to educate those who don’t plan ahead and get behind the wheel when impaired.

“All the RIDE checks we do we come across more sober drivers than impaired, which is great, but unfortunately we still have people taking the chance, driving impaired, causing carnage on our highways,” Redmond said. “Impaired driving is across Ontario, across North America. There is no patch out here, we all work together, we are different police jurisdictions, but we work together for public safety and that is what it is all about.”

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