HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) - The Hartsville Police Department recently hired a new grant-funded DUI officer dedicated to cracking down on drunk driving.
Officer Justin Reichard said the new position allows him to save lives by taking reckless drivers off the streets.
"With drinking and driving, you're not only putting yourself at risk, but you're also putting other people at risk," Reichard said. "By taking each drunk driver off the road, you're not only saving them, but you're saving other people as well."
The new position is funded through the 2018 Highway Safety Grant from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety awarded to the department last fall.
Part of the grant funding will go toward a new DUI patrol car.
Along with patrolling the streets, Reichard will take his duties to the classrooms. Part of his job is to educate youth about the dangers of drunk driving.
"If we educate them now, by the time they're actually able to drink being legal age, then hopefully that'll stick with them through their years coming up that they won't get behind the wheel once they've decided to go out," he said.
Reichard takes pride in the position. He said he enjoys working DUIs, but before he was granted the position it was difficult to focus on them. Once the city of Hartsville was granted over $100,000 to hire a new DUI officer, he felt it was the perfect opportunity.
"I felt that this was my chance to do nothing but focus on DUIs," Reichard said.
Reichard started the position last week. In five days, he said he's already arrested several people driving under the influence. He hopes with the new position, people will take notice.
"'I'm hoping that the public will see that, you know, we're out here, that we are enforcing the law when it comes to DUIs and that, you know, they think before they get on the road," Reichard said.
Hartsville city officials said they already applied for 2019 grant funding for the position to continue the police department's efforts with impaired drivers.