News 12 First at Five / Thursday, March 22, 2012
AIKEN, S.C. -- There are some changes coming to the Aiken Steeplechase when it comes to keeping you safe at the races.
The Aiken County Sheriff's Office plans to triple the number of deputies they will have inside the gates this year. They will have patrols in uniform and undercover, looking to prevent drunk drivers and underage drinking.
Many enjoy celebrating at the races.
Don't forget about the open container laws.
You are allowed to drink alcohol inside the event gates, but be careful walking to and from the parking lots -- deputies will write you a ticket if you have an open drink.
For more information about Steeplechase, visit the website here.
"It's just a fun day of going out, spending it outside in this gorgeous weather that we've had and enjoying a little bit of horses," said Brittni Everhardt, who's excited about a day at the races.
But for many, it's also a day to party.
"If you do plan on coming and having an alcoholic beverage while you're there, you need to plan on having a driver to get you home," said Aiken County Sheriff's Cpt. Troy Elwell.
And the Aiken County Sheriff's Office means business. For the first time in years they are increasing patrols for the 35,000 people.
"It grows every year and we've just failed to keep up with that growth as far as law enforcement on the scene," Elwell said. "We were just understaffing the event."
This year, they're tripling the manpower for the day.
"We were staffing that with a maximum of 10 officers; the ratio is just not correct, for the patrons or for our officers. This year we're going to up it. It's going to a minimum of 30 officers on the scene, which will help us better enforce underage drinking," Elwell said.
It's a problem they'd like to rein in before it gets out of control.
"A lot of times whenever there is drinking involved, especially the younger folks, tend to make a little more irrational decisions," Everhardt said.
Elwell said you may see more arrests this year just because there will be more officers around. You may also see more DUIs as officers crack the whip for the safety of the people here and on the roads.
"We're trying to make sure everyone acts responsible, that they don't violate the law," he added.
"It's not just being there, at the event, it's also whenever you leave, knowing that the police officers are there and that hopefully the streets will be a lot safer, too," Everhardt said.
Aiken Public Safety and the South Carolina Highway Patrol will also be working the event. Also, don't forget about the open container laws. You are allowed to drink alcohol inside the event gates, but be careful walking to and from the parking lots -- deputies will write you a ticket if you have an open drink.
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