By CARL SMITH
Funding from two grants will add additional Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office seat belt and DUI enforcement patrols this year.
OCSO Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett said a recently acquired seat belt enforcement grant and a DUI enforcement grant will add over $35,000 to the department coffers. Of that total, $25,000 will be specifically used to pay deputies overtime and increase the total number of law enforcement patrols in the county.
Although OCSO had already applied for the grants at the time of the incident, Garnett said the need for additional seat belt and DUI enforcement became more apparent after last week’s single-vehicle accident which killed 19-year-old Treasure Huffman. Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt said Huffman was not wearing her seat belt at the time of the wreck.
County investigators confirmed last week alcohol and excessive speed were factors in the wreck.
On a typical 12-hour shift, Garnett said his department averages four deputies on patrol, a number which includes a shift supervisor. Garnet said OCSO can tap into the grant money and add additional manpower as needed to extend those extra patrols through the year.
With the seat belt grant, also referred to as an Occupant Protection Grant, OCSO was awarded $12,182. Garnett said $10,000 of that grant will be used to pay overtime, while the rest is fringe benefits. The DUI enforcement grant awarded the department $23,273. $15,000 of that grant will be used to pay overtime, while $5,000 will be used to purchase 10 portable breath testers and $3,273 will go toward fringe benefits.
Garnett said the department was approved for the seat belt grant and has a verbal OK for the DUI enforcement grant.
The department’s grant acquisitions comes in time for the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign, which is scheduled from May 21 to June 3. The campaign’s website states the two-week enforcement program netted more than 3 million seat belt citations in the past five years.
“During the national campaign, we’ll have more people out on the roads working seat belt detail. We’ll even put advertisements up reminding drivers to buckle up,” Garnett said. “Visibility and knowing we’ll be out there enforcing are two big things for us. Knowing we’re looking for seat belt violators is a big deterrent.”