County Board approves holiday traffic enforcement over objections

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board accepted a $48,701 grant to beef up traffic enforcement on holidays, over the protests of a few members who objected to various aspects of the longtime program.

Board members voted Tuesday, 16-6, to accept money from the federal Sustained Traffic Enforcement Program grant to increase McHenry County Sheriff’s Office patrols and set up checkpoints on six holidays in fiscal 2014 to crack down on driving under the influence and other unsafe acts such as seat-belt violations.

The program is run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the Illinois Department of Transportation is in charge of doling out the funds and collecting data on its results.

Opponents sounded off on everything from the strings attached to the civil liberty aspects.

Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, was cautious in pointing out that she has lost loved ones to drunken drivers and favors cracking down on them. However, she opposed what she called quotas for citations.

The grant requires minimum results of one citation per 60 minutes of patrol for impaired driving violations and “occupant protection” violations like failing to wear seat belts, and at least one DUI arrest for each 10 hours of patrol.

“When we install quotas because of the strings attached with state funding, we really put ourselves out on a limb,” Evertsen said.

Board member Nick Chirikos, D-Algonquin, said he opposed checkpoints in general, and called them a “quasi-militaristic action by police.”

“I would sooner see money spent to encourage people to be responsible drivers and empower them to be responsible on their own, rather than treating motorists like children and lording over every move they make,” Chirikos said.

Board member Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry, spoke out in favor of the increased patrolling on holidays.

“Clearly there’s a reason for this grant. I don’t see it as harassment, but prevention,” Salgado said.

The grant, which covers overtime for officers and fuel for their vehicles, does not require a local match. For McHenry County, $43,164 of the grant is allocated for salaries and $5,537 for gas, oil and lubricants.

Holidays covered include Thanksgiving, the Christmas and New Year’s season, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Police departments can ask for funding for extra patrols on Cinco de Mayo and Super Bowl Sunday, but the county’s grant request did not include them.

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