Clyde police host first DWI checkpoint
Downtown Clyde was aglow with blue and red lights Friday night during a multi-agency checkpoint that blocked off the town’s main thoroughfare.
The event marked the town’s first community safety checking station hosted by the Clyde Police Department, and according to the agency, it won’t be the last.
The checkpoint was a surprise to many Clyde residents, some of whom even called Clyde Police Chief Gerard Ball asking if something terrible had happened.
“But as soon as I told them we were hosting a checkpoint they said, “That’s great,” and became very supportive,” Ball said.
During the debriefing prior to the event, Ball asked each of the 36 officers present to keep track of how many comments they received from people who came through the checkpoint, good and bad.
The majority of those who offered an opinion told officers they were happy to see law enforcement step up in their community, he said.
Ball said although Clyde has the lowest population in the county with about 1,200 residents, it’s that small-town vibe that makes people forget that crime exists everywhere.
Since stepping in as chief in June, Ball said he quickly realized that drug activity has a strong presence in the town.
“A lot of people think Clyde is small, but there is a lot of traffic that goes through Carolina Boulevard with folks trying to get to Canton or Waynesville,” Ball said.
Sometimes that means criminals and drunk drivers are bypassing the Interstate and coming through Clyde in an attempt to avoid law enforcement.
It’s also a road where even locals tend to speed, something that Ball is stepping up to prevent.
Hosting the checkpoint was his way of letting criminals and local residents know that the Clyde Police Department is taking their job of protecting the community seriously.
Ball strategically blocked off Carolina Boulevard and placed “chase cars” in areas where he suspected people might turn around to avoid the checkpoint.
With the help of several other law enforcement agencies, including Maggie Valley Police Department, Canton Police Department, Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, N.C. Highway Patrol and the N.C. DMV License and Theft Bureau, there were 56 total citations that night including traffic, drugs, underage drinking and a felony warrant out of state.
One of the state’s six mobile breath-alcohol testing units, commonly referred to as the BATmobile, was even on site to increase the efficiency of DWI processing for the officers.
Although there were no DWI arrests that night, both Ball and Ellen Pitt, MADD representative for Western North Carolina, deemed the checkpoint a success.
"I think some drunk drivers think they are less likely to get arrested by going through a town like Clyde," Pitt said. "Any time you have a high profile enforcement activity, it’s a deterrent because people will know there is enforcement down there."
In addition, agencies that participate in checkpoints can gain points and free equipment from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program each year, such as flash lights, stop sticks, radar and lidar detectors and more. All that means saving money for the town.
“I really wanted to get our traffic program to where it needs to be so we can take advantage of these resources during these difficult financial times,” Ball said.
More than anything, the night was about reminding residents and criminals that though the Clyde police force may be small in number, they will seek out illegal activity.
“It’s time we bind down the hatch and let people know we are here to enforce the law,” Ball said.