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FROM STAFF REPORTS

BURNET — Burnet County prosecutors and law enforcement agencies are stepping up their battle against driving and boating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol thanks to a new task force.

Officials announced the creation of the Burnet County Blood Alcohol Task Force on March 25.

Starting April 1, Burnet County law enforcement agencies won’t have to transport a person suspected of driving or boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol to an area hospital. Instead, thanks to funding from the Burnet County Commissioners Court and participating law enforcement agencies, the only trip suspects will take is to the Burnet County Jail, official said.

The jail will have an on-call, trained phlebotomist ready to handle the blood draws, officials said.

Enforcement officers estimate the new system will cut the time for a blood sample form a suspected drunk driver from three hours to one hour, reducing the time arresting officers are off the streets and the water, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department news release stated.

According to officials, many law enforcement agencies patrolling the Highland Lakes — both on roads and water — have operated under a “no refusal” policy in which DWI and BWI suspects are required to submit blood samples.

It’s a procedure that seems to be making a difference.

“Because of these efforts, we’ve seen a gradual downward trend in the number of offenses,” TPWD Capt. Kevin Davis said. “For example, on Lake LBJ, our BWI case numbers used to be in the twenties annually, but they’ve dropped to fewer than 10 per year.”

The Burnet County Commissioners Court has agreed to pay $40 of each blood test with the remaining $50 coming from the law enforcement agency. But an anonymous donor has covered the law enforcement portion through September 2013, officials said.

Task force officials said they hope private citizens and businesses will help with the program through donations.

Residents and businesses can make donations by sending checks to the Burnet County Blood Alcohol Taskforce, 220 S. Pierce St., Burnet TX 78611.

For more information, contact the Burnet County Attorney’s office at (512) 756-5476.

editor@thepicayune.com