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ABC officers catch drunk drivers before they start driving - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

ABC officers catch drunk drivers before they get behind the wheel

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Planning to drink and drive? It's not just a DWI checkpoint you have to worry about anymore.

An officer with the Mecklenburg ABC Board could be watching you before you even get behind the wheel.

It's part of a new initiative called Operation Safe Streets and it's the brainchild of Chief Mike Crowley.

"Before they get into the vehicle and start it up -- start to drive, we approach them and ask them you know is this gonna be a good idea," he said. "You think, maybe -- it's not a good idea to drive."

Here's how it works: officers wait outside bars across the county, from Center City to Plaza Midwood to South Park, to see if you're too drunk to drive.

Crowley said it's not about arresting people, but about changing behaviors and saving lives.

"They have done nothing wrong," he said. "They have broken no laws. You can have a friend come pick you up...you can call a cab."

Can't afford a cab ride home? They'll give you a voucher so you can get there -- safely.

That's good news to Charlottean Kelvin Cane, who's been a designated driver more than once. He's glad to see ABC officers taking a different approach.

"I think it's a great idea," said Cane. "And also I think it's a great idea because they're not trying to arrest people, they're trying to actually help the community."

If the proof is in the numbers, they're already making a difference. The project is only two rotations in and so far, they've talked 92 potential drunk drivers out driving home and handed out 17 vouchers.

"You spend ten minutes, you get somebody a safe ride home and the officer moves on--to try find someone else," said Chief Crowley. "This way, we think there's more bang for our buck."

The vouchers are paid for out of the ABC's education budget. Crowley told WBTV they've spent less than 300 dollars so far.

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