Kenilworth police received an early New Year’s gift – state money to further help curb drunken drivers on holidays, which comes in handy on New Year’s Eve.
Amid all the other party-night preparations for public-safety departments in both Kenilworth and Wilmette, a grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation enables Kenilworth to pay the required overtime pay for an extra patrol officer.
“We got the traffic-safety grant from IDOT for six holidays,” said Kenilworth Sgt. Dave Miller. “If not, it would have to come from village coffers. A lot of suburbs apply for the grant. To be awarded it, you have to meet certain criteria. It’s set up to look for seat-belt violations and DUI’s. Ours will be for DUI enforcement.”
Kenilworth is concentrating its New Year’s Eve patrols on the main north-south thoroughfares – Sheridan, Green Bay and Ridge roads. Quieter side streets also will get attention.
While Kenilworth won’t reveal the total number of patrols, including the state-funded addition, neighboring Wilmette will have six cars prowling as the clock ticks to midnight and beyond.
Wilmette Police Chief Brian King said Skokie Boulevard and Lake Avenue generate the most DUI stops, since they're heavily-traveled roads and exit points into Wilmette from the Edens Expressway. State police, responsible for patrolling the Edens, notify Wilmette police of any suspected DUI vehicles departing the expressway onto Skokie or Lake.
Christmas parties generate bigger drinking problem
Miller — who will work New Year’s Eve day — said the patrols typically have their busiest time before Christmas.
“Events like Christmas parties, office parties,” he said. “People aren’t expecting to drink too much, and end up doing a lot of drinking. New Year’s is a planned event. People are more prepared for that night.”
Miller said the biggest challenge on New Year's Eve is separating the drunk drivers from the sober ones.
“From midnight to 1:30 a.m., there are a large number of cars,” Miller said. “It’s like a mad rush, people going home right after (celebrating) the New Year’s event. Sometimes it’s easier to located DUI drivers when there’s less traffic. Sometimes (in heavier traffic) they can become masked.”
King said most New Year's Eve arrestes happen before 3 a.m. He said the department also tends to receive calls about loud parties in residential areas well into the wee hours.
The patrol officers of both communities appreciate the warmer-and-drier-than-normal weather predicted for the holiday.
“For us, weather would be a worse problem,” Miller said.
Wilmette’s Fire Department will have normal staffing, including paramedics, at its two stations at 1304 Lake Ave. and 747 Illinois Road. Deputy Fire Chief Mike McGreal said the number of New Year’s Eve calls is usually the same as any Friday or Saturday night with one exception.
“We’d get more reports of cooking fires than usual real late at night, because people are cooking around the start of the New Year,” he said. “We might get more ambulance calls for homes because of people celebrating there.”