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Benny Polacca, Published December 30 2008

Area police beef up staffing for New Year's Eve

Fargo and Moorhead police departments will be out in full force on New Year’s Eve to make sure revelers obey the law while ringing in 2009.

“We’re going to be fully staffed,” Fargo police Sgt. Jeff Skuza said of the 25 or so officers and their supervisors who will be working Wednesday.

Moorhead Police Chief Deputy Shannon Monroe said his department will also have a full set of officers on duty. He said he does not anticipate a huge amount of problems with impaired drivers on the road Wednesday night because people tend to plan their evenings responsibly, such as assigning designated drivers if they go out to area bars.

“Because of the amount of advertising and everything about it, it usually turns out to be one of our quieter nights,” Monroe said of New Year’s Eve.

Robyn Litke, coordinator of the Safe Communities Coalition of the Red River Valley, said her organization has been busy promoting the “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest” campaign message through area media outlets, including radio stations. The campaign was organized by the U.S. Department of Transportation‘s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Skuza said Monday that Fargo police do not plan to set up a sobriety checkpoint on New Year’s Eve. If the plan changes, the checkpoint will be announced in advance, he said.

On the past New Year’s Eve, Fargo police made eight DUI arrests as did Bismarck while Grand Forks, N.D., had two, The Associated Press reported.

In addition to looking out for impaired drivers on city roadways, police will be making sure New Year’s Eve festivities – such as house parties – do not get out of hand.

Skuza said the department does not expect to be overwhelmed with complaints related with driving under the influence, but “we do get more frequent loud party complaints,” which can require additional officer assistance.

“A loud party complaint can take at least an hour and can tie up a number of officers, from two to five, depending on how big the party is,” he said.

Skuza said people are in violation of the city’s loud party ordinance if a gathering of two or more people can be heard 60 feet away or in an adjacent apartment between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Benny Polacca at (701) 241-5504