Sheriff's gear up for New Years Eve

Published: Dec. 30, 2011 at 10:13 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2015 at 4:49 PM MST
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For the past few years, New Year's Eve is getting safer.

Whether it's because people are getting smarter or law enforcement becoming better is a debatable point.

Maybe a bit of both.

"We'll have rolling checkpoints," says PCSO DUI Sgt. Douglas Hanna. "We'll set up in an area for an hour, breakdown and move and maybe do it a third time."

It makes if more difficult for motorists to beat the system.

"It's more of a deterrent," he says.

The various law enforcement agencies will all have more patrols on the beat meaning there will be saturation.

Nearly every corner a driver turns on New Year's Eve ,he or she will come face to face with another officer.

Another issue facing law enforcement are the unusually high number of people who fire guns into the air at the stroke of midnight welcoming in the new year.

Drivers don't have to blow the proverbial .08 to be an impaired driver either.

"It comes down to impaired to the slightest degree," he says. "Arizona has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country."

So that means it'[it's not just alcohol which can get someone hauled off to jail.

More people than ever before are taking prescription medications. It's not the medication itself that might land a ticket.

"They don't know what the effects are with combining those drugs with alcohol," he says.

A driver may believe he's safe with just a glass of wine but in combination, it might make for a dangerous and expensive combination.

In Arizona, that's a felony.

A 14 year old girl, Shannon Smith, was killed by such a bullet in Phoenix in 1999. State lawmakers then passed Shannon's law making it a felony.

In rural Pima County there are some exceptions but if the shot is fired within a mile of a residence, it falls under the law.

The danger is not hard to figure out.

"When you fire a bullet straight up into the air, that bullet is going to come down somewhere," says Deputy Renee Carlson.

She says her fellow deputies told her when she worked her first New Year's Eve to make sure she had cover when the shooting started.

She was unsure until bullets started flying in the air.

"I sat in my patrol car," she said.

It's difficult to find and prosecute those who break Shannon's Law but Deputy Carlson says people should call 911 anyway.

"If we don't get there when the shooting is taking place, we'll then have to conduct the investigation the best we can." she says.