Friday night was a bad one for traffic violators in Newton County as members of the Newton County Sheriff's Office arrested five and handed out 34 tickets at two roadblocks.
NCSO traffic unit commander Sgt. Randy Downs headed up the roadblocks, which were designed to make the roads of the county safer.
"I think we have already made a difference," Downs said. "People see our cruisers and slow down. That is what we want. We're not in it for the tickets. We want to make the roads safe."
Ten deputies, three detention officers and an intoxilyzer specialist joined the traffic unit for the roadblocks. Deputies working the road blocks were volunteers and not part of the normal group of deputies on duty patrolling the streets.
"These guys want to do something good for the community," Downs said of the deputies.
The first roadblock began around 7:15 p.m. at the intersection of Dixie Road and Ga. Highway 142. Two people were recently killed in an auto accident at the intersection.
"We pick locations based on traffic problems and high crime areas," Downs said.
Each week Downs uses the NCSO Eagle System to determine the places, days and times traffic laws are most often broken which allows him to plan the roadblock accordingly.
"The technology we have now compared to five years ago is phenomenal," Downs said.
Within minutes of arriving at the intersection, the roadblock is set with deputies, lights, orange cones and stop signs in place. A queue soon forms with deputies checking licenses, insurance, tags, taillights and window tinting.
Deputies radio in to the detention officers in the command vehicle for insurance verifications. The command vehicle sits in a Newton County Fire Department parking lot away from the action.
Soon, deputies make their first arrest when it is determined Floyd Mosley has a suspended license and a bench warrant from Madison. Mosley was in contempt of court for failure to appear on a speeding ticket.
After a little over an hour and a half, Downs calls for the deputies to pack up.
"Once word gets out, people that are doing the wrong things will know where we are and to not got that way," Downs said.
The contingent relocates to the intersection of Covington Bypass and Lower River Road, the site of another recent auto fatality.
Within minutes of arriving, the deputies bring in their first suspected DUI. A quick blow on the intoxilyzer results in a blood alcohol level of.165, well above the legal limit of .080. A deputy reports the man tried to hide the alcohol on his breathe by sucking on ketchup packets.
While drunk drivers receive the most attention, Downs said "drug drivers" are also an increasing problem.
"Drug driving has become almost as bad as drunk driving," Downs said. "People think they can take these prescription pills and then go out on the road, but it doesn't always work that way. If you OD on prescription pills, it will impair your driving."
Deputies soon find an abandoned car on the side of road. The driver would later be picked up by a Georgia State Patrol trooper down the darkened road. Once arrested, Demetrious Harper admits he was driving on a suspended license and abandoned the car so he would not get caught.
"I made a mistake man," Harper said. "I was just going to get some McDonald's. I knew I was going to jail either way, man."
Sure enough, deputies found a fresh bag of McDonald's food in the abandoned car.
Downs said simple traffic violations like Harper's occur everyday.
"Traffic laws are violated every second of every minute of every day," Downs said. "When you see a yellow light that means to slow down and stop, not to speed up. A stop sign means stop, not to do a California roll."
As the night comes to a close, Adam Wilson and Randy Newsome are the last arrests of the evening. Both men have suspended licenses from North Carolina and Georgia. Newsome also has an arrest warrant out in Lawrenceville.
After a final tally, Downs said 34 tickets were issued, five arrests were made and three vehicles were abandoned. For the year, Downs estimated 380 tickets have been issued and 50 arrests have been made.