Winnebago County, WI receives grant for OWI Task Force

Winnebago County, Wisconsin received a $75,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Safety in order to put together an OWI (operating while intoxicated) task force that will work through late 2013 to combat OWI during special events and weekends. The grant is going to be used to cover the wages and benefits of the officers who will be assigned to the task force. The OWI enforcement will include bi-montly patrols using 10-squad cars per detail, according to Winnebago County Sheriff John Matz.

Matz said, “We’re not trying to prohibit the consumption of alcohol. We’re trying to make our highways safer through responsible alcohol consumption.” A similar task force with a focus on drunk driving has been implemented in Brown, Outagamie, Marinette, and Sheboygan counties. Task forces in Winnebago and Manitowoc counties are set to begin operation in November, according to Michael Panosh, the regional program manager for the Bureau of Transportation Safety.

These Northeast Wisconsin task forces work together, and do not stay within jurisdictions. During deployments officers in one community can work in another. Panosh said, “The days of the corner bar are really over. People are driving between communities and counties.”