Dougherty HEAT grant renewed

ALBANY -- Despite dwindling state funds and higher scrutiny of public safety dollars, the Dougherty County Police Department will receive its fifth HEAT grant from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

The Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic, or HEAT, program provides annual grants to departments in areas where law enforcement works to crack down on drunk or impaired drivers and speeders.

Since the department has been a part of the program, the DCP has reduced the number of injury-involved crashes by 46 percent and fatal crashes by 42 percent, Lt. Tom Jackson said.

"That really is the whole reason for this program and for our focus on traffic," Jackson said. "We want to see the day where we don't have to worry about people getting hurt or killed in crashes. Until we do, we'll be out there trying to keep the drunk drivers and speeders off the road."

But the program is about more than just enforcement, Jackson said. It contains an educational component as well.

Of the 26,000 contacts the department has made this year, it has distributed more than 13,000 educational items that include pamphlets and other materials designed to educate and inform the public.

With funds dwindling throughout the state, GOHS is funding only 21 units this year, which is down from last year, Jackson said.

"It's an honor for us to be included in the programs that are still getting funding," Jackson said.

Jackson said the department will continue to maintain a high level of visibility and attempt to thwart the aggressive driving its officers see daily on Dougherty County's roadways.

"It makes me glad to see people hit the brakes when they see me or sling on a seatbelt when we come down the road because that's what we want. We want people to be aware of their own actions so that maybe we'll have a few less crashes and a few less families to have to notify that a loved one is gone," he said.

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety funneled $3 million this year into departments across the state for the HEAT program.

The DCP's traffic unit has been recognized at both the state and national level for excellence in educational and enforcement activities. It recently was asked to participate in a statewide training documentary that was filmed in Dougherty County.