Tribe, Casino Pro-Active On Curbing Drunken Driving

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The Mazatzal Casino and the Tonto Apache Police Department offered St. Patrick's Day celebrators a chance to check their blood-alcohol level as well as a ride home if they blew above the .08 legal limit.

The voluntary breathalizer was the idea of Officer Michael McNeal, a 30-year veteran of law enforcement.

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Tonto Apache Tribal police officer Michael McNeal demonstrates how the portable breath test works on John Stump, security supervisor at the Mazatzal Casino. Officers provided voluntary tests to casino patrons and those who blew above the legal limit of .08 had the option of getting a ride home in one of the three casino shuttle buses.

"I put in a suggestion that we do this as a community policing project," McNeal said. "It's a pro-active way of getting people off the road who have had too much to drink.

"If we see somebody come up we offer it to them," McNeal said. "It's totally voluntary.

"If the tests shows they've had too much, then we are going to suggest that they take the shuttle."

The casino had three shuttles in operation Wednesday night. The free shuttles go to Payson and surrounding areas and, on occasion, even Pine and Strawberry.

The test consists of blowing through a straw and the Alcosensor measures the blood alcohol level in a few seconds.

The first time the voluntary testing was done was on New Year's eve.

"About 80 people stopped by and took the test," McNeal said.

Tonto Apache Tribal Police Chief Joe Tunno said the service is strictly a courtesy and to inform the public.

According to McNeal, most patrons will take the shuttle if they fail the test, but if someone refuses and is staggering and gets behind the wheel, they will pull them over for DUI, or call Payson Police Department and have them make an arrest if they have left the reservation.

"If they are above the legal limit," McNeal said. "We encourage them not to drive and if they choose to, they could face some serious consequences."

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