As New Years begins, historically a time which coincides with more parties and an increased number of car crashes, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has said that the police force is putting a heightened patrol plan into place, which will monitor traffic for drunk driving.
The heightened surveillance began about two weeks ago, before Christmas, and will continue for about another week, says MOJ Chief of Staff Ernest Ongidobel.
All police officers are working throughout the holidays. Many officers are on duty especially at night, when most drunk driving occurs.
The patrol plan involves numerous checkpoints throughout Koror and Babeldaob, where officers are monitoring traffic. Chief of Staff Ongidobel says that they will be looking for reckless driving, checking car registration, and conducting sobriety tests.
Despite the heightened level of surveillance, the Chief of Staff says that the police force is operating with limited resources, and he urged people, especially young people coming from and going to parties, to be responsible.
“Of course we cannot be all over Palau at once, but we’re doing the best we can with what resources we have to keep people safe,” the Chief of Staff said.
He cited the increase in car crashes Palau has already seen over the holiday season as a demonstration that drunk driving occurs, even in the face of stricter law enforcement.
November and December have seen a surge in car accidents, with police reports putting the number of accidents from mid-November to the end of December at over 60. Last Sunday saw a three-car accident take place on top of KB Bridge, and another accident in mid-December in Aimeliik ended with a car overturning, eventually resulting in the death of one of the passengers. Numerous alcohol-related crashes have taken place in both Koror and Babeldaob within the past month, one of which resulted in the smashing of the front of LM1 Store in Malakal.
The MOJ has stressed that those found guilty of drunk driving will be arrested and charged.
This past week, Koror has seen candlelight vigils and street campaigning from Dewill to Live, an annual campaign which commemorates DeWill Reklai, a high school student who was killed by a drunk driver fourteen years ago, three days before Christmas.