May 21, 2012

By Michael Cignoli
The Saratogian

BALLSTON SPA — Local law enforcement officials have a message for graduating high school seniors: if their graduation celebrations include alcohol, a diploma may not be the only piece of paper they receive.

Saratoga County STOP-DWI Coordinator Robert Murphy said police will be on the lookout for, and ticketing, underage drinkers during all local graduation ceremonies and post-graduation parties.

Addressing the Saratoga County Traffic Safety Board Monday afternoon, Murphy said overtime funding for the additional police presence has been authorized through the county’s STOP-DWI program, which is funded through fines paid by convicted drunken drivers.

Murphy said additional overtime has been authorized to allow officers to combat driving while intoxicated over Memorial Day weekend.

The move comes on the heels of the program’s authorization of additional police overtime during high school prom season — which stretches into mid-June — and law enforcement agencies throughout the county stepping up their presence to deter underage drinking and drunken driving.

The Saratoga Springs Police Department reported no arrests related to Saturday night’s Saratoga Springs High School prom, city police Sgt. Andrew Prestigiacomo said. But there were some driving while intoxicated arrests over the weekend, he said.

Murphy said law enforcement agencies throughout the county relayed similar messages following proms in their areas, the bulk of which were held this past Friday and Saturday. Ballston Spa and Shenendehowa will host their senior proms next month, but Murphy said the results thus far have been encouraging.

“It was really good,” Murphy said. “All of the schools made an effort and worked together.”

Murphy is now hoping for a similar effort during next month’s graduations. Ten schools have clustered their graduations between June 21 and 23, while Mechanicville’s is slated for June 30.

Officers are not as worried about drinking at the graduation ceremonies themselves as they are about the after-parties, Murphy said.

Local teen recognized 
The Traffic Safety Board on Thursday also recognized Ballston Spa High School junior Katy Stringer, one of six winners in a statewide “Save Your Friend’s Life Over the Airwaves” contest.Stringer produced a 30-second public service announcement on the dangers of drowsy driving that will air on three local radio stations to promote safe driving among teens.Drivers ages 16 and 17 cause approximately 140 drowsy driving crashes each year, according to the state Association of Traffic Safety Boards, the contest’s sponsor.

Murphy, who said drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence, presented Stringer with a $200 check that Ballston Spa’s Class of 2013 can use to fund things like safe post-prom activities.