Just a few weeks after an administration change in the Clayton police department, the town held its first police checkpoint in two and a half years Saturday night. It netted seven driving under the influence arrests among 91 total violations.
Last month, Apex Police Captain Blair Myhand took over the Clayton department after the retirement of four-year police chief Wayne Bridges.
In his time in Apex, Myhand said, he conducted many more checkpoints than Clayton – usually three a year. But he said the planning of this checkpoint actually predated his arrival to Clayton, because it was organized a couple of months ago.
Clayton – joined by officers from the Smithfield and Kenly police departments, the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina Highway Patrol – set up a checkpoint on U.S. 70 Business just past the gymnastics facility Nick’s Flippin’ Kids. Drivers heading east were stopped from 10 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday.
For a four-hour operation, Myhand said the results of the checkpoint were unlike anything he had seen in Apex.
I have not seen a checking station the size of the one we put on Saturday night produce the number of violations that this one did. ... It’s not something I was accustomed to seeing in Apex.
Blair Myhand, new Clayton police chief, who was formerly a police captain in Apex
“I was pretty blown away there were that many charged,” Myhand said. “I have not seen a checking station the size of the one we put on Saturday night produce the number of violations that this one did. ... It’s not something I was accustomed to seeing in Apex.”
Seven drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, with one offender cited for blowing .25 BAC on a breathalyzer. The legal limit in North Carolina is .08.
Fourteen people were arrested or charged on a variety of drug offenses, ranging from possession and distribution charges for cocaine and marijuana to possession of a Xanax. There were four gun charges, one for carrying a firearm by a convicted felon, one for carrying a stolen gun and two concealed carry charges.
A fugitive who failed to appear in court on another driving charge was also arrested.
The bulk of the charges stemmed from some violation with a driver’s license – either not having one, having a revoked one or reporting a different address than the one found on the car’s registration. Thirty people were found driving without ever obtaining a license, while others simply just didn’t have it on them.
The last Clayton checkpoint in August 2014 was held on N.C. 42 East and had similar results. That time, 98 charges were filed – eight for DUI, 21 for drugs and one for assaulting a police officer, among other offenses.
The Clayton Police Department posted the results of the latest checkpoint to its Facebook page and got quite a reaction, garnering dozens of congratulations and words of thanks and praise. By Monday afternoon, the post had been shared nearly 500 times and had more than 100 comments. Some commenters called the department “proactive” and wished it would do checkpoints more often.
But a few questioned the intent of the checkpoint that, more often than not, collected violations that had nothing to do with drinking and driving or otherwise dangerous behavior. Some said it was a revenue generator for the town, and others called it an invasion of privacy. Myhand said he had seen the comments but pointed to a 1990 Supreme Court decision upholding checkpoints in saying it wasn’t a violation of anyone’s rights.
“While this checking station was designed for the driving while impaired offense, we understand that we’re going to interact with people for a variety of other offenses,” Myhand said. “We’re not going to not address an observed violation just because we’re targeting driving while impaired.”
Myhand said the checkpoints are one of the least biased policing actions a department can take.
“We’re still stopping ever single car in the process,” Myhand said. “We don’t pick and choose who drives though; we don’t pick who we stop. We encounter every single vehicle. I get the concerns about privacy, but traveling on the roadway is a privilege, not a right.”