Task forces aims to reduce drunken-driving crashes

Gallup, New Mexico (AP) 4-08

An interagency task force is aimed at reducing alcohol-related crashes, injuries and deaths through sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols.

City and state police officers, and McKinley County sheriff’s deputies will be cross-commissioned to extend their jurisdiction onto Navajo Nation land within the county.

The six-month pilot project that is the first of its kind in the state, said Gallup Police Chief Robert Cron.

As part of the agreement, Navajo Nation officers also can make arrests within the city of Gallup. Navajo Nation officials are expected to sign the agreement in the near future, said Sheriff Frank Gonzales.

“I’m sure they’ll be on board,” he said.

In the past, city officers could not cross onto tribal land and make arrests because they lacked jurisdiction. With the new agreement and task force, jurisdiction won’t be an issue.

The project is funded through a $241,000 grant provided by the state Department of Transportation’s Traffic Safety Bureau. The task force, led by Gallup police Sgt. Edwin Yazzie, will focus on areas including N.M. 371, U.S. 491 near Tohatchi, McKinley County Road 19 and N.M. 509.

In 2005, 122 crashes were reported along U.S. 491 and N.M. 371. Of that number, 37 were fatalities.

“We’ve been mapping these locations and need to target them more aggressively,” Cron said. “We’ve drastically cut down on fatalities in the city, now we need to extend our coverage further onto the Navajo reservation.”