Fatal wrecks underscore task force's mission

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

CONROE, Texas - Less than a week after a pair of car collisions claimed fives lives, a Montgomery County task force is cracking down on suspected drunken drivers.

The 18-officer task force began its work Tuesday night in advance of the Independence Day holiday.

"We go in and look for individuals who've been over served, checking for underage drinkers," said Tyler Dunman, a prosecutor with the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office.

The task force made visits to bars from Conroe to Spring, giving patrons field sobriety tests in parking lots to make sure they were sober enough to drive home.

Dunman said the task force was also watching bar employees to make sure they weren't "over-serving" patrons.

During the first night of the operation, officers arrested seven people and charged them with public intoxication. Ten more people were charged with driving while intoxicated.

One man was found passed out in the front seat of his truck. Officers could not rouse the individual and eventually had to get a tow truck driver to use a device to unlock the truck's door.

"However many arrests we have to make, whether it be bartenders, patrons or both," said Dunman. "That's what we're going to do."

While out checking bars and parking lots, members of the task force also helped chase down a man suspected of driving a stolen truck. 

Also helping with this effort is a group of citizen volunteers, called DWI Tracker. These volunteers drive around the area looking for people who are possibly driving drunk and relay the information to police. This idea comes from Margaret Smith, whose 18-year-old daughter was killed by a drunken driver three years ago.

The combined effort is further underscored by what happened on a stretch of I-45 last weekend. Five people were killed in two separate collisions where drivers were heading the wrong way down the freeway. Investigators said alcohol is suspected of playing a role in both collisions.

"We're answering the call, and we've sent a message that we're going to be in their bars," said Dunman.

The task force will continue this operation through Sunday night.

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