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Law enforcement encourages celebrating New Year; ‘We just want people to do it safely’

Washington State Patrol Trooper Guy Gill retrieves the personal belongings of a woman arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2012. The state patrol, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and Bellingham Police will have extra officers on foot and on the roads over the holiday weekend.
Washington State Patrol Trooper Guy Gill retrieves the personal belongings of a woman arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2012. The state patrol, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and Bellingham Police will have extra officers on foot and on the roads over the holiday weekend. The Olympian

If you plan on ringing in the New Year in Whatcom County with a few drinks, you can expect more DUI patrols from state and local law enforcement agencies.

The Washington State Patrol, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and Bellingham Police, as well as a few other local police departments in the county, will have extra officers on foot and on the roads over the holiday weekend, law enforcement officials said.

The state patrol has had additional officers on the roads since before the holiday season started, said WSP Trooper Heather Axtman.

“There’s been a big statewide push for extra patrols to make sure everyone can ring in the New Year safely,” Axtman said. “We know there are more people on the road during certain holidays. … We’re not discouraging functions to get together with friends, family and coworkers; we just want people to do it safely. With an increase in the amount of traffic, we need to increase the amount of patrols.”

Troopers can sign up for extra shifts, or DUI patrols, and be paid overtime. The state’s Traffic Safety Commission pays for the trooper’s overtime, she said. The extra troopers will be on patrol until after Jan. 1.

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office deputies also get paid overtime for extra DUI patrols, and the state’s Traffic Safety Commission handles those costs, Undersheriff Jeff Parks said.

Parks said the sheriff’s office regularly participates in activities coordinated and funded by the traffic commission aimed at reducing impaired driving.

An exact figure of overtime costs was not available at press time.

Bellingham Police will have extra foot patrols throughout downtown, as well as extra traffic patrols, police Lt. Don Almer said. Officers also will be paid overtime, but through the police department’s allocated overtime budget, Almer said.

“Since there’s a lot of establishments serving alcohol in the city center and folks are out celebrating in the city center, we like to have a presence in order to positively interact with the citizens and also serve a reminder that alcohol and driving do not mix and hopefully remind folks to be responsible and to do the right thing,” Almer said.

Bellingham Police also provide additional patrols for other holidays and events, such as St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Halloween, the Commercial Street Night Market and Western’s “Paint B’ham Blue, Almer said.

Some taxi and ride-share companies also will offer discounted rates for rides during New Year’s Eve.

The following cab companies will have discounted metered fares:

▪  Northwest Town Car Service: 360-966-6112

▪  Bellingham Taxi: 360-220-4990

Other cab companies either did not return phone calls or were not offering discounts for various reasons.

Uber & Lyft:

▪  Lyft doesn’t have any dedicated promos in Bellingham, but “encourages passengers to call a Lyft ride for a safe ride to and from their festivities on one of our busiest nights of the year,” a Lyft spokesperson said.

▪  Uber did not return requests for comment.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt

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