Orono Police Department (OPD) has recently received a series of grants that pay for new allowances to increase coverage of speeding, driving under the influence, seatbelts and enforcement of underage drinking laws (EUDL).

The EUDL grant totals more than $10,000, according to OPD Sergeant Camron Barrieau, and was dispersed in the fall of 2018. OPD has received a EUDL grant every year for the last five years.

“With that grant, what we’re doing is specifically looking for illegal transportation of alcohol by minors, illegal possession of alcohol by minors, and furnishing places for minors to consume or actual furnishing of the alcohol to the minor,” Barrieau said.

The EUDL money is typically used to increase patrols in the fall, around the time that classes begin. OPD usually increases the number of officers on duty from five to nine or 10 during any given shift.

“The theory behind that is that underage drinking obviously leads to domestic [disputes], fights, OUIs, criminal mischief, stuff like that,” Barrieau said. “If we can stop all that before they start drinking, obviously that’s the ultimate goal.”

OPD also received money from the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety to fund specialized patrol details.

“We got speed details, impaired driving details, and then we got ‘click it or ticket,’ which is seatbelt details,” Barrieau said.

The department received $5,650 for speed details, $5,216 for drunk or impaired driving details and $2,956 for “Click it or Ticket.”

“Obviously, [the increased details] are not targeted at students, however [they are] targeted at the population in general, and what we come up with is increases in crash statistics during the school year because of the increase in population,” Barrieau said.

The goal of the grants is to reduce crashes and injuries from crashes.

Grants are awarded periodically throughout the year. The “Click it or Ticket” grant is released for a two-week period each May, with the hope that residual awareness will linger through the year. The other three grants are released every September. The times of year when grants are released are set by the Bureau of Highway Safety and OPD does not have a say in the time or period of dispersal.

The grant money is spent on specialized patrols that don’t respond to calls but are strictly looking for speeding, drinking or seatbelt violations. During the first few weeks of each semester, one- or two-officer patrols will be stationed around Orono.

The department wants to be upfront about new details and regularly posts updates to Facebook. The hope is that information will spread by word-of-mouth, and drivers will be more cautious.

Barrieau said the legalization of marijuana has affected the department’s enforcement of impaired driving laws.

“A lot of drivers think that impaired driving only pertains to alcohol, or heavy drugs like heroin or cocaine. Marijuana still applies to that,” Barrieau said.

He mentioned that the OPD has seen a steep increase in the amount of OUI arrests and convictions in the last two years, following legalization.