TAMPA — Alarmed by the number of alcohol and drug-related crashes in the county, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office has launched a new DUI enforcement unit, the agency announced this week.
The new centralized squad is composed of 20 deputies and two supervisors trained to detect and apprehend impaired drivers.
"As a Sheriff's Office, we know we have to do everything we can to prevent and to rid ourselves of impaired drivers," Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a recorded video statement. "There are too many people getting hurt and killed on our roadways."
The squad will also work off the road. Deputies will meet with alcohol vendors and bar owners and employees to provide guidance on how to sell alcohol responsibly "so we don't create an impaired driver to begin with," Chronister said.
The squad members will also visit local high schools to stress the importance of driving sober.
Of the 25 Florida counties with populations greater than 200,001, Hillsborough County had the most injuries and fatalities caused by impaired drivers between 2013 and 2017, according to findings published last year by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The Sheriff's Office planned a targeted DUI enforcement effort Friday night with the Tampa Police Department and Florida Highway Patrol.
"We will always have a zero tolerance policy," Chronister said. "There will be no warnings issued. Find yourself behind the wheel and impaired, you're going to jail."
Contact Tony Marrero at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.