State Rep. Paul Tine, who represents Hyde County in the General Assembly, has asked to meet with state highway patrol officials about why it was necessary to send six troopers to Ocracoke on the July Fourth weekend.
This is the second time this year that the presence of state troopers has caused a stir on the island.
Tine said in an interview today that many of his constituents called him about the influx of troopers on the most recent holiday weekend. “I’ve received a lot of concern from constituents in the area,” he said. “I don’t have a police background and do not pretend to know their jobs, but I need to know how to answer that question.”
He said the officials—the highway patrol colonel and the state director of public safety—will get back to him next week.
Sgt. Jason Daniels of the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office, who is stationed on Ocracoke, confirmed that six troopers were on the island Friday, July 5, to do license checkpoints. Four of them left that night and the remaining two left the next day.
“It’s a legal means to find infractions of the law,” he said. “The license check allows us to find other infractions.”
As it turned out, the troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and National Park Service rangers helped move the traffic along during which time several infractions were found.
According to the Ocracoke Current, as reported by First Sergeant Brandon Craft of Troop A, District 4 in Washington (Beaufort County), a 15-year-old boy from Fuquay-Varina was struck by an alleged drunk driver at the intersection near the Slushy Stand on July 4. The boy suffered scrapes and bruises and did not have to be transported to a hospital.
During the July 5 check point, there were three DWI arrests and one marijuana possession charge made. Also, 33 citations were written for seat belt violations, three for lack of child restraints, and five for no operator’s license, according to the Current.
“It was a successful checkpoint,” Daniels continued. “If we can get drunk drivers off the street, that’s a good thing.”
Daniels wondered about citizens’ thought processes when they get a case a beer and then drive to the beach, consume it, and drive back to the village.
“There’s enough education out there about not driving after drinking,” he said. “Don’t do it. In most DWI cases we stop there’s a sober individual in the car who could have been driving.”
Some islanders expressed frustration with the heavier police activity—concerned that so many flashing blue lights will turn tourists away.
“The complaint I heard the most was that the troopers were using the fact that cars have to sometimes cross the yellow line to avoid pedestrians to pull drivers over,” said Patty Plyler. “People also were saying that they deal with this kind of police activity at home and come to Ocracoke to relax and couldn’t do so.”
Others said if people aren’t breaking the law, they shouldn’t be worried about a heightened police presence.
“We were in the check point line coming off the beach and the officers were very polite,” said Robin Turner. “The line moved pretty fast.”
County manager Bill Rich was surprised that he didn’t get any complaining phone calls last weekend, although he received many phone calls during the first weekend in May when troopers on the island and issued 59 citations for various law infractions. That weekend culminated in the two troopers’ cars being vandalized.
“After that, I apologized to Sergeant Craft and Captain John Nyberg, head of the district,” Rich said.
Byron Miller of the Ocracoke Harborside Inn, who talks to lots of visitors, said he hadn’t heard the horror stories of the” nonstop pulling people over” that happened the first weekend in May.
“I didn’t hear of the heavy-handed stuff as before,” Miller said. “Maybe that’s because we expect (the troopers) to be here on July 4.”
Even so, many people he talked to wondered if six troopers was overkill.
“With the normal police coverage here no one seems to mind,” Miller continued. “It’s just that when the troopers come in force, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, and it’s not fun to be the fish.”