Crime Beat, Police Blotter

Capt. Al Casciato receives ‘Above and Beyond’ award from State Office of Traffic Safety and MADD

Capt. Al Casciato of the San Francisco Police Department (and former Northern Station Captain) was the recipient of the “Above and Beyond” award as the founder of the “Avoid the 8” program from the California Office of Traffic Safety and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD). The award was presented at an advanced DUI training seminar on Feb. 14 in Palo Alto.

Avoid the 8 is the City’s multiple award-winning crackdown on impaired drivers, named for the number of police agencies with traffic responsibilities.

Before Casciato founded Avoid the 8 in 2003, the numerous law enforcement agencies in the City had never banded together in an effort to save lives by bringing about cultural change through education and enforcement.

Now, Avoid the 8 is strongly multi-jurisdictional and runs dozens of cooperative sobriety checkpoints.

The captain will retire this June and calls founding Avoid the 8 one of the most fulfilling efforts of his 42-year police career. “He believes strongly in public education because you’ll never arrest yourselves out of the problem,” said SFPD Lt. Jim Calonico. “He frequently speaks on Avoid the 8 for radio, television and newspapers.”

Thirty-eight police officers working in San Francisco were honored at the event for their DUI-arresting expertise.

Avoid the 8 will hit the streets again for St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo, two occasions many people celebrate with alcohol. The Office of Traffic Safety funds the crackdown through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The History of Avoid

The Avoid Anti-DUI Program was launched in the winter of 1973 to bring law enforcement agencies together in countywide clusters to crack down on the drinking driver and reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by alcohol related crashes. Funding, provided by grants from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency allows counties to add overtime hours, reassign officers, and conduct public awareness campaigns during the increased enforcement periods.

The overall goal of the awareness campaign is to let drivers know about the countywide increased enforcement periods and warn drivers that the only way to “Avoid” the county’s law enforcement officers is to drive sober. Increased enforcement periods are active statewide during the National Anti DUI Mobilization Campaigns, which are Mid-December through New Years; Mid August through Labor Day weekend; and during the high traffic holiday periods on Memorial Day weekend and Independence Day weekend. Additionally, Avoid Patrols deploy on nights with high incidents of DUI offenders and DUI collisions such as Halloween, Super Bowl Sunday, St Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.

Santa Clara County was the first to participate in the Avoid Anti-DUI Campaign. Since 1974, 41 counties have joined the program bringing over 540 law enforcement agencies together to fight drunk driving on our streets and highways. In 2003, nine Bay Area counties joined forces to become the first regional Avoid Program in the nation with 125 participating law enforcement agencies.

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