Officers Out In Force For Holiday Weekend

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Before putting your car in gear this weekend, make sure you're sober, buckled up and ready to calmly drive to your destination.

This weekend, officers from the three law enforcement agencies in the area will be out in force patrolling the highways and byways of the Rim country in an effort to make it a safe Independence Day holiday.

"We're putting as many deputies as we can on the street, and we'll be using our reserve officers," said Lt. Oran Shear of the Gila County Sheriff's Department. "We'll be hitting the forest roads especially, that's where our main coverage area is."

Sgt. John Whetten of the Department of Public Safety, said his district is not bringing any additional officers to the Rim country, but has rearranged vacations and days off to ensure adequate coverage along the highways.

"We're not only working enforcement, but we'll also be looking for stranded motorists," Whetten said.

DPS will have its Ranger 55 airplane flying low over the Beeline Highway and Highway 260 east of Payson to look for broken down vehicles, he said.

"It's a fixed-wing aircraft that flies low," he said. "If they spot one, they fly low enough to call to them from a (public address system). If they wave their hands for help, then we dispatch somebody to go out to them."

The Payson Police Department will have it's regular crew on duty, patrolling the streets of Payson.

"Our officers have been working so much overtime," said Lt. Don Engler, "that we weighed the benefit of scheduling additional officers, and decided to go ahead and try it this year with the regular patrols.

Engler said the normal traffic patterns suggest an increase in traffic from Thursday nights to Friday afternoon.

"By Friday night, most of the tourists are either at their campsites in the woods, or out of the area," he said. "We don't really see that many problems in town. And, on Saturday nights, we have double coverage anyway."

While none of the local agencies are planning any designated DUI checkpoints, they do stress that their officers will be watching closely for drivers that appear to be impaired by drugs or alcohol.

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