WAYNESBORO, Ga. -- Driving drunk can land motorists behind bars and so can other infractions, such as being in the possession of illegal drugs or attempting to speed through a roadblock set up by law enforcement authorities.
Law enforcement personnel from a number of area agencies, including the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department, encountered all three of those particular crimes during checkpoints in Waynesboro and Burke County last Friday night.
The checkpoints -- the first of which was held on West Sixth Street in Waynesboro and the other at the intersection of Georgia Highways 56 and 23, about two miles from the Burke-Richmond county line -- resulted in nearly 700 motorists being stopped. Officers checked licenses, insurance cards, vehicle registrations, seatbelts, tags and decals.
And they paid special attention for those suspected of driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or wanted for offenses by other law enforcement agencies.
In conjunction with the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, agencies associated with the East Central Georgia Traffic Enforcement Network (ECTEN) worked those areas for nearly five hours.
Wrens Police Chief David Hannah serves as the ECTEN coordinator and termed the operation most successful last weekend.
"Even though this was one of our smallest operations ever in terms of manpower, it was highly successful," said Chief Hannah, who has served as coordinator for the past seven years.
In the larger counties of Richmond and Columbia, there are sometimes as many as 100 law enforcement officers involved in checkpoint operations from a number of agencies in East Central Georgia. This past weekend, about 28 officers participated in the operation.
Representing the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department was Deputy Mike Coke, a veteran lawman, who has participated in a number of such operations with Chief Hannah through the years.
"I really enjoy going out and being part of the checkpoint operations," said Deputy Coke. "I especially like getting drunk drivers off the roadways."
At least four persons were arrested between the hours of 7 p.m. and midnight last Friday. All four of them were men -- one of whom also was cited for Violation of the Georgia Open Container Law. Other violations included driving without a license, no license, wanted by a law enforcement agency, expired decal, driver's restriction violation, expired tag and window tint violation, according to Chief Hannah.
Agencies involved in last weekend's checkpoint operation included: Wrens Police Department, Waynesboro Police Department, Burke County Sheriff's Department, Richmond County Sheriff's Department, Jenkins County Sheriff's Department, Georgia State Patrol, Burke County Emergency Management Agency and East Central Georgia SAFE Kids.
Chief Hannah said 28 law enforcement agencies from nine counties within East Central Georgia, including the Georgia State Patrol post in Thomson, are members of the East Central Georgia Traffic Enforcement Network. Often times, officers with the Georgia Department of Public Safety Motor Carrier Compliance Division also participate in such operations. Their primary function is to concentrate on big truck violators, said Chief Hannah.
"These types of checkpoints are aimed at helping to keep motorists safe on Georgia highways," said Chief Hannah. "We also want to get drunk drivers and other violators off the roadways. It's a great feeling to know that we are making a difference."
The East Central Georgia Traffic Enforcement Network is one of 16 such networks in Georgia, who share common goals -- the main one being to protect the motoring public as much as possible and to rid violators from the roadways.