Authorities step up patrols at graduation time

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News 12 at 11 o'clock, May 30, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Tonight there will be lots of graduation festivities for many in Richmond County. New graduates will be out celebrating--but keep in mind police will also be out there as well, making sure the highways are safe for everyone.

"I'm excited," said graduate Randall Norman. "I can't wait to see what the next chapter holds for me."

"I'm very excited," said Winston Stoker. "It was a very long process. I'm just glad to make it out."

"I am excited I finally made it through, and I'm ready to accomplish greater things," said Brittany Andrews.

"I feel great, man!" said Charese Williams. "We're going out to eat--probably pull up to a buffet and try to find a couple of parties!"

It's one of the happiest days for many high school seniors in Richmond County: graduation day. But the happy day could turn to a sad night for many who don't use common sense.

After getting that diploma in hand, many of them will head out to celebrate, and local deputies will head out too, to make sure the celebrations don't get out of hand.

"One mistake can change the rest of your life," said Sgt. Richard Elim of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. "You're just beginning your life."

Sgt. Elim says they are keeping a close eye on a certain group between now and the weekend.

"We try to put emphasis on where we think there might be teen drinking going on," he said. "During this time of year we step up our underage operations, underage drinking compliance operations, along with the state department of revenue."

Sgt. Elim says he's seen teenagers drinking on graduation night too many times, year after year. He says even though they're out of high school, the law is still the same: no one under the age of 21 should be drinking. If they're caught, Sgt. Elim says they will pay the price.

"We charge everybody," he said. "We're not going to warn anybody. We feel very strongly and we hope people will think before they act, and we're going to charge everybody."

The kids we talked with said they planned to spend the evening with family and friends and had no intention of drinking, let alone drinking and driving.

Authorities tell us the reason they're cracking down is they're hoping to save someone's life. Local police and the highway patrol will both step up their DUI patrols, especially on the interstates and main roads.

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