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Detective discusses dangers of drunk driving

Det. Ed Hartman was the guest speaker at the Whitehall Township Crime Watch meeting Sept. 22. This was the concluding meeting for their "Taking Citizens through a DUI Arrest" theme.

Hartman, a graduate of Whitehall High School and Penn State University, was a police officer in the Upper Saucon Township area for 30 years and, while there, ran crime watch meetings. Currently, he works with District Attorney James B. Martin at Lehigh County's Central Booking Center.

"What we do there is we process all the arrests in the Lehigh Country. We have 26 different police agents we process and then we arraign them for all the district justices, like Judge Halal. Every arrest from Allentown to Slatington to Coopersburg comes into us that need to be processed for an arrest. Those are usually retail thefts or misdemeanor arrests," Hartman said.

When an arrestee comes into Central Booking for a DUI, his or her property is confiscated, paperwork is processed, his or her photo and fingerprints are taken, balance and walk and turn tests are instructed and alcohol-related questions are asked, such as when his or her last drink was.

While the procedures are costly, they do not cost the taxpayers anything.

"The people who are doing these crimes are paying for this," Hartman said.

Central Booking receives about 1,900 DUIs a year, "which makes us the third busiest DUI centralized center in the state," Hartman said.

"In Leigh County, the average blood alcohol reading is between 1.4 and 1.5," Hartman said. The legal limit in Pennsylvania is .08. One lady from Catasauqua came in one morning on her way to work. She was a 4.0."

Hartman has second-hand experience with DUI cases because one of his family members was killed by a drunk driver.

"My grandfather was killed by a DUI driver back on April 2 of 1960. It was my mother and father's wedding day. The drunk driver went through a red light and killed him," Hartman said. "In those days, you got a fine. The person paid 50 dollars. So, these people are out there and they do affect us."

Hartman said he didn't want to come across as telling individuals not to drink. If you do drink while out, however, having a designated driver is really the best thing to do, Hartman said.

Crime watch meetings are held in the public meeting room of the municipal building the fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m. and are open to the public. The next meeting is Oct. 27.