Quick arrests lead to early end for Elmwood Park safety check
Elmwood Park Police Sgt. Robert Klisz checks a drivers license and insurance cards during a roadside safety check on the 7300 block of North Avenue in Elmwood Park. | Michael Jarecki~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 30, 2012 3:13PM
ELMWOOD PARK — An Elmwood Park Police Department roadside safety check last week was cut short because arrests were made so quickly.
The safety check started at 11 p.m. Nov. 24 on the 7300 block of North Avenue and was supposed to last until 3 a.m. the next day. A $20,000 Sustained Traffic Enforcement Program grant through the Illinois Department of Transportation paid for additional manpower to run the safety check, primarily checking for drunk drivers and drivers not using their seat belts while traveling westbound on North Avenue.
Elmwood Park Police Sgt. John Wasilenko worked that evening, directing drivers to pull over.
“We did every fifth car unless there was something blatant observed, like open alcohol in the car,” he said.
The check quickly netted five people, charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol in a little more two hours.
Elmwood Park Police Chief Frank Fagiano said police made the five arrests so quickly that they had to cut the roadside safety check short at 1:07 a.m. They had eight police officers assigned to the detail, and when an officer made an arrest, they had to take the person to the police department, process the person and write up a report, which took time away from the checkpoint.
“We suspended the operation because everyone was tied up with arrests,” he said.
Police checked for driver’s license, registration and insurance during the safety check. If there was probable cause, police asked drivers to submit to a field sobriety test.
One of the five people police arrested allegedly had open alcohol in his vehicle.
Serafin Ramirez, 30, of 1757 N. Kildare Ave., Chicago, was arrested at 12:12 p.m. Nov. 24 at the scene and charged with DUI and allegedly having open alcohol in his vehicle. His court date is Nov. 28.
Francisco Pena, 29, of 1005 Main St., St. Charles, was arrested at 12:23 p.m. Nov. 24 at the scene and charged with felony DUI, no valid driver’s license and endangering the life of a child. According to police, there was a 7-year-old child in the car at the time of the arrest.
Pena’s court date is Nov. 28.
Fagiano was glad the department took the alleged drunk drivers off the street, but was a little discouraged people are still living dangerously.
“You would think with all the awareness out there, but people are still continuing to drink and drive,” he said. “It’s very concerning to me that the people were driving impaired.”
Wasilenko said many of the people who were stopped or passing through the checkpoint were appreciative of the department’s efforts. “They were telling the guys, thank you for creating an element of safety,” he said.
Fagiano said if the public still needs a reminder about the dangers of drinking and driving, his department will do its part, especially in December and January. The department plans to have another roadside safety check during the Christmas holiday season.~.