Group targets teens driving while intoxicated

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – A team of local agencies is on a mission to take underage drinkers off of Horry County streets. The group is called the C.A.S.T. Coalition.

C.A.S.T. stands for Community Action for a Safer Tomorrow.

There are nine local law enforcement departments currently participating: Aynor Police Department, Coastal Carolina University Department of Public Safety, Conway Police Department, Horry County Police Department, Horry County Sheriff's Office, Loris Police Department, North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety, South Carolina Highway Patrol, and Surfside Beach Police Department.

Officer Benton with the Horry County Sheriff's Office is the group chairman. Benton says this is a communal effort.

"It's been very successful. The C.A.S.T. Coalition is unique in that it is a community oriented type coalition. Community members from different sectors of the county are involved in this. This is not a law enforcement heavy coalition. We've got clergy, we've got media members, teachers, students, and parents," Officer Benton explains.

C.A.S.T. held 46 DUI checkpoints during a three month period.

Benton says these checkpoints have been effective in citing drivers for a number of issues like possession of marijuana and open container violations. So far, they've made 50 DUI arrests during these operations.

Back in 2010, C.A.S.T. identified underage teens driving while intoxicated as a growing problem in Horry County. After receiving fund from a federal grant, the group organized intensive operation to cut down on the number of incidents.

Officers with the nine participating agencies in Horry County will continue to train with the solicitors office and the goal is to teach the officers the most effective  method to use during operations to ensure a DUI conviction in the court room.

On the prevention end, officers will continue to work with Horry County Schools.

"We're doing training classes with principles, assistant principles, to help observe if a student is indeed under the influence of alcohol. Yes, enforcement is a big part of it. But, training, education, and prevention is also a big part of it as well," details Officer Benton.

Benton says the checkpoints will continue this weekend and this go around, officers will use data collected from the 46 checkpoints C.A.S.T. conducted since March. This allows officers to strategically target the biggest problem areas in Horry County.

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