Grants for drug, traffic crackdowns approved

Nye County commissioners Tuesday accepted two grants for the Nye County Sheriff’s Department, one for traffic safety crackdowns involving officers from various law enforcement agencies and another for narcotics highway interdiction.

County Commissioner Donna Cox, who voiced objections to accepting $106,940 in federal grant money to conduct drug stings, wasn’t present for the Tuesday meeting, but participated in the discussion by conference call. Cox directed a series of questions at Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall at the Aug. 3 meeting, asking for an explanation about a saturation patrol for highway interdictions on June 13, 2012.

Cox asked “are you aware the pretextual stops may be unlawful?”

This time, both a $15,200 U.S. Department of Justice Byrne Justice Assistance Grant for narcotics highway interdiction and a $21,000 State of Nevada Office of Traffic Safety Joining Forces Grant for high-visibility, multi-jurisdictional traffic enforcement events, were approved without any dissent.

The traffic safety grant will be focused on reducing fatalities and serious injury crashes in Nevada. It will provide funding for enhanced enforcement of safety belt and child safety seat laws, speed enforcement, pedestrian safety and reducing distracted and impaired driving through Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) saturation patrols and checkpoints.

Nye County has participated in the Joining Forces program for the last seven years. While no local match is required, the county set aside $2,500 in case of any budget overages.

The Nevada Department of Public Safety said people who weren’t wearing seat belts accounted for 47 percent of motor vehicle fatalities on Nevada roadways in 2012. One fatality in every 3.92 motor vehicle fatal crashes in 2012 had been drinking alcohol. Speed is a contributing factor in one of every 3.75 motor vehicle fatalities. In 2012, the department reported there was one pedestrian killed for every 4.25 traffic fatalities.

The DPS wants to promote high visibility enforcement of laws governing seat belts, driving while intoxicated, distracted driving, pedestrian and speeding laws. The DPS set goals to be met by Dec. 31, 2014: reducing fatalities from not wearing seat belts from an average of 71 per year to 69; decreasing alcohol-impaired driving fatalities 7 percent from an annual average of 70 to 60; decreasing annual speed-related motor vehicle crash fatalities 3 percent from 69 to 66; decreasing pedestrian fatalities 10 percent from 46 to 41 and decreasing annual traffic fatalities overall 7 percent from 275 to 254.

Under the STEP program a minimum of two officers will be stationed at each checkpoint for at least two hours; officers are highly encouraged to make at least two traffic stops per hour. Any sobriety checkpoints will be stationed in an area where there have been a number of alcohol-related crashes in the past year and a number of locations selling booze.

The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant is for two years and doesn’t require a county match. The county participated in this grant program providing overtime money for drug interdiction for over 15 years.