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Program's goal is safe proms, graduations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- No prom night or graduation night deaths in eight years. Kanawha County wants to keep it that way.

County officials kicked off the eighth year of Operation Graduation Prom Alive (GPA) Thursday, a joint law enforcement effort to patrol prom night and graduation night at each of the county's high schools in hopes of preventing drunk driving fatalities.

The Kanawha County Commission allocates $15,000 every year to fund the overtime wages for the officers who conduct the patrols and set up DUI checkpoints.

"We support this program 1,000 percent," Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy said during a press conference Thursday at the county Metro 911 headquarters. "I can't think of anything we're going to do more important than this."

During prom nights, officers will report to the dance and maintain "high visibility," Kanawha County Sheriff Johnny Rutherford said.

After the dance the officers will fan out in the areas where the majority of students live and concentrate on prom-related calls, like parties.

The officers will follow a similar schedule on graduation nights.

"The purpose is to keep students and the public safe and alive," the sheriff's department said in a release. "One way we do this is by educating the public, particularly the students, on the dangers of drugs, alcohol and driving."

The Kanawha County school board, the Charleston, Nitro, South Charleston and St. Albans police departments, State Police, the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority and Metro 911 also participate in the effort.

Reach Zac Taylor at zachary.taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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