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Local police report few OTD disturbances
July 16, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Although Oregon Trail Days is a major celebration in the area, local law enforcement reported very few incidents over the weekend.
“This was one of the quietest Oregon Trail Days weekends we’ve had as far as law enforcement calls,” said Gering Police Chief George Holthus. “We had one DUI arrest and about eight other disturbance calls to the area around the carnival. We’re pleased with how the celebration went.”

He added the Safe Ride program helped with keeping incidents to a minimum. “As for Gering proper, this was a good year for us and the community. The community was out to have a good time. We hope for another one next year.”

For the fourth year, SAFE Ride OTD volunteer drivers assisted law enforcement in the effort to keep streets safe from incapacitated drivers during the popular Oregon Trail Days celebration in Gering last weekend. The project’s organizer, Gering Citizen Publisher Lisa Betz, said her pool of volunteer drivers provided rides to 87 people on Friday night and 88 rides on Saturday. “We had fewer riders this year but many people passing by our Gering Citizen offices on foot said they had a designated driver and didn’t need a ride,” said Betz.

“It seemed like many were planning ahead, and that’s a great thing.
“Perhaps the promotion of SAFE Ride OTD a few days in advance of the festivities prompts people to make plans for a safe driver on their own,” Betz said. “However they get home, as long as it’s a safe ride, that’s all the matters.”

Tony Straub, Operations Captain with the Scottsbluff Police Department, also reported a quiet weekend. “We had a couple of shoplifting incidents and a driving under suspension, but no DUI incidents or anything else related to Oregon Trail Days,” he said.
The Nebraska State Patrol had two late night sobriety checkpoints set up for the weekend, at the corner of U Street and Five Rocks Road and at South Beltline and Avenue I. “We only arrested one driver for DUI,” said Lt. Marty Denton of the Nebraska State Patrol. “We contacted more than 92 drivers at our checkpoints over the weekend. We had about 18 violations of the open container law, but there was a lot of voluntary compliance, which we like. I think Safe Ride had a direct impact for providing designated drivers. For the number of people in town for the weekend, this shows a great level of responsibility.”

Betz saw the need for the service four years ago when she noticed a Facebook conversation about drinking and driving during Oregon Trail Days. The drivers, all community volunteers and highly visible in their bright safety green shirts, use their own vehicles, gas and insurance to get people home safely, at no cost to the riders.
Riders call the Gering Citizen or walk to the newspaper’s office to obtain a ride. Those who must wait for a driver during the busy time of night enjoy pizza, bottled water and baked treats.

Sponsors for this year’s SAFE Ride OTD project were Gering Citizen, Dietrich Distributing, Cozad Signs, Scottsbluff Screenprinting, and Pizza Hut.
For more information about SAFE Ride OTD and how to get involved, call Lisa Betz at (308) 672-1114.
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