NEW HANOVER COUNTY — New Hanover County ABC Council on Thursday awarded $104,320 to local law enforcement as part of its new Law Enforcement Annual Grants (LEAG) program. The ABC Board already distributes 5% of its profits to police departments, but has taken an additional step to financially help officers deal with local alcohol-related incidents.
“If what we did got 10 drunk drivers off the road with these grants, it was worth every penny of money spent by this council,” said ABC Chief Executive Charles Hill, “because a drunk driver we catch can save three lives.”
For fiscal year 2022, the ABC Board has allocated $150,000 to the five local police jurisdictions: Wilmington Police Department, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, Wrightsville Police Department, Carolina Beach and the Kure Beach Police Department.
Each year, the ABC council distributes a portion of its profits to municipalities, based on liquor sales at ABC bars, restaurants, and retail stores located in their districts. These funds are not specifically for liquor law enforcement, and Hill explained that there is no liability associated with it.
“The community knows they’re getting it, but they don’t know where they’re going,” Hill said. “But when we do these grant programs, we can show the community, that’s what goes towards alcohol deterrence, drug awareness, the nine yards.”
Only three departments applied for LEAG funding, which had a cap of $50,000 per recipient. Each received their requested amount:.
- Wrightsville Police Department: $50,000
- Carolina Beach Police Department: $50,000
- New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office: $4,320
The program is in its first year and has taken longer than expected to get started, said chief financial officer Kathy Clark. Because ABC’s board had yet to create a grant program, the process took nearly two years to set up to ensure it went smoothly. Hill said they mimicked a platform used by Mecklenburg County, which took time to set up administratively.
When the next round opens in April, Clark said she expects all five local police departments, whose need is pending, to apply. Hill also said things should go smoothly now that the program is in place.
Hill said the goal of the grants is for law enforcement to incorporate innovative methods into their liquor enforcement and possibly include them in future budgets.
“We’re kind of pushing the bear so to speak,” he said. “If they see the process is working for them, they’ll put it in their budget and come back and ask for something else. The more we can spread this initiative, the more we can continue to fight against alcohol abuse. »
Each department must present its parameters and the use of subsidies in July.
New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office
The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office requested funding to purchase 12 subscriptions to Intellicheck, an app that scans ID cards to verify legitimacy. When an ID barcode is scanned, within two seconds the program responds with a distinctive color and tone indicating whether the ID is valid (green), expired (yellow) or false (red).
In 2016, the Sheriff’s Department and the ABC Board of Directors teamed up to install this program on every liquor store registry to prevent underage liquor purchases.
“It worked perfectly,” Lt. Joe Jewell said.
In January, ABC Stores scanned more than 2,600 IDs and was able to detect 125 fake ones.
Prior to this service, clerks had to use the traditional method of simply verifying a person’s date of birth. Hill confirmed that it was nearly impossible to spot fake IDs before Intellicheck.
The sheriff’s office tested 12 similar programs, all claiming to be able to spot fake IDs, according to Jewell. But Intellicheck was the only one that worked accurately — and it works directly with the creators of every state ID barcode, including military IDs.
Subscription is discounted for law enforcement at $30 per month. The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office plans to use the grant funds to cover a 12-month period.
Seven of the subscriptions will be handled by Sheriffs Alcohol Field Enforcement (SAFE) officers, who enforce alcohol violations during traffic stops.
“Normally we would call for ID and wait for a response to confirm or deny it,” Jewell said. “We should remove the name, date of birth, address and make sure everything matches. With this, in seconds, they can determine if it’s fake.
Five of the subscriptions would be awarded to officers from the Downtown Task Force, a collaborative effort formed in 2016 by the county sheriff’s office and the Wilmington Police Department.
“These are officers who work in the bar district, where there is usually the highest concentration of captured fraudulent IDs,” Jewell said.
Sheriff Ed McMahon has already approved the continuation of the Intellicheck service in future budgets.
Carolina Beach Police Department
Carolina Beach Police Department Chief Vic Ward has asked for $50,000 for the beach town to buy additional equipment to help catch underage drinkers and more drunk drivers.
“Limited resources that are stretched during busy summer months hamper targeted strategies designed to deter alcohol and enforce liquor laws,” Ward wrote in her grant application.
Ward’s plan for the grant money will include:
- School-based educational program every six months
- One sobriety check per month
- Conduct two high-visibility saturation patrols each week in high-risk, high-use areas
- Track alcohol-related metrics – number of stops for impaired driving or underage drinking, and percentage of stops resulting in an alcohol or drug-related offense.
To implement these programs, Carolina Beach Police will purchase two LDR guns, handheld laser instruments that can focus on a particular high-speed vehicle, for $2,336 each. He will also purchase three additional portable breathalyzers, each costing around $785.
The portable breathalyzers would be used by Carolina Beach officers, who are required to conduct active sightings on foot along the boardwalk and engage with local bar owners and patrons.
Ward said even a visible presence helps mitigate alcohol violations. This makes people who drink think twice before driving after binge drinking or trying to buy alcohol while underage.
“Seeing people and knowing them not just by face but by name is a good deterrent to these companies,” Ward said. “By the fact that the employees know the officers, I think that is important.”
The department is also considering purchasing $4,000 mobile signal towers when officers conduct traffic checks. They provide a more well-lit atmosphere than a flashlight, which helps with safety as well as locating open containers in vehicles.
Surveillance vehicles — models that people don’t automatically equate with law enforcement — are also on Ward’s wish list.
“The goal is multiple,” he said. “We can stop at a facility that we’re having trouble with…and people don’t say, ‘Oh man, law enforcement is watching us. “”
Wrightsville Beach Police Department
Wrightsville Beach Police Department Chief David Squires told ABC board members that 30 New Hanover County residents have been killed in the past four years due to driving accidents with Impaired.
Squires said his team of around 25 made 179 DWI arrests in 2019 and 74 in 2020. The number declined during the height of the pandemic due to stay-at-home orders and the closure of bars and restaurants. It jumped again to 102 in 2021
Squires’ mission for the department’s grant money is to allocate resources to more sobriety checkpoints, in hopes of reducing the rate and severity of DWI offenders and associated vehicle accidents.
“One of the ways we can do a better job of arresting is to be more proactive and engage in highly visible road safety checkpoints,” he said. “There is good evidence to suggest that checkpoints – well publicized, well known to the public – can produce up to a 20% decrease in DWI offences.”
He added that more checkpoints lead to more arrests, but the department often faces a shortage of staff to cover all these additional measures. He said overtime funding is one of the department’s biggest needs to be able to respond to more proactive initiatives.
“We want to increase the perceived cost to DWI, the likelihood of being arrested,” he said. “And we want the public to see us do it.”
With additional funding, Squires said he could also purchase a visible digital bulletin board, at a cost of $15,460, to communicate with the public, 50 orange cones and additional security lighting, all to conduct checkpoints. .
Additional staff would also be helpful during peak beach season, he said. In 2020, Wrightsville officers cited nearly 1,800 people, a 30% increase from the previous year. The chief said the citations could prevent offenders from getting into their vehicles.
The beaches attract minors, and children under 18 are more likely to hang out at night than attempt to enter local bars. In order to stealthily target offenders, Squires said wearable night-vision goggles, with 500-foot visibility, would allow them to perform additional surveillance without revealing their status.
“If we have our headlights going down the beach, they see us long before we see them,” he said.
The night vision tools, with lenses magnified three times, would cost the department about $4,000 each.
“It’s a process,” Squires said. “We’re probably going to see some things work and some things that could work better.”
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