Wheels turn on drunks
By Toby Walker
This time last year, one in every six traffic accidents occurring in the Lower River area could be blamed on drink-driving.
The numbers were staggering when compared with the North Coast average for alcohol-related traffic accidents.
Flush with funding from the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), police moved to crack down on drink-drivers with the initiation of the second phase of Operation Drink-Driver Lower River.
What followed was a series of weekend blitzes targeting Lower River drivers between September and May.
At the end of the campaign and almost 5000 random breath tests, 84 ? mostly local drivers ? had appeared before the magistrate to face drink-driving charges.
Another 300 traffic offences and infringements were also picked up in the operation's dragnet.
Last week Grafton Highway Patrol Senior Constable Bret Loveday was pleased to report that alcoholrelated accidents in the Lower River were now in line with the North Coast average.
But the job is not over and with a fresh injection of RTA funding, Operation Drink-Driver Lower River has again set its sights on drink-drivers as police prepare for a new campaign in the coming weeks.
"It'll be likely that there will be a major blitz basically every month down there," Snr Cst Loveday said.
"Over the three days we're down there we're usually picking up three or four (drink-drivers) a night.
"For a small community that's pretty bad and the ones we pick up are mostly locals."
Snr Cst Loveday said the presence of extra police cars assigned at towns like Yamba also had a policing flow-on effect by helping to deter anti-social behaviour.
nMEANWHILE, the Yamba Police Station will shortly receive an upgrade.
According to Coffs/Clarence local area commander Paul Fehon, plans have already been drawn up for the changes and the refurbishment has been in the pipeline for some time.
He said a development application had already be submitted to Clarence Valley Council, but because amendments had to be made, the DA would have to be resubmitted.
Supt Fehon said it would be a major redevelopment.
"We are looking at a considerable redevelopment and refurbishment of the Yamba Police Station which will assist in accommodating new staff," he said.
While unable to give an exact figure on how much it would cost, Supt Fehon said a substantial amount would be needed.
The upgrade comes after the State Government announced last week it will seek a private sector partner to help buy and refurbish existing police stations.
Police Minister Carl Scully said the police property portfolio would include approximately 1200 police stations, residences and specialised facilities worth more than $500 million. A long-term contract would be offered to the successful company.
"A five-year contract will be offered to the private sector partner who will be responsible for facilities management, asset management and strategic management of the entire NSW police property portfolio," he said.