Caught in the act: Howard sting snares 28 suspended drivers

Primary targets were those with convictions for drunken driving

January 08, 1999|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Darrell Dale drove to a seemingly routine appointment yesterday with his probation monitor in Ellicott City.

Instead, he drove into a trap.

Authorities waited for him to leave the meeting, get into his Jeep Wrangler and begin to head home with his 8-year-old daughter. Then, they arrested him on charges of driving with a revoked license.

Howard County police and state officials made 28 arrests in a sting targeting drivers barred from driving after being convicted of drunken driving in Howard County.

"This caught me by surprise," said Dale, 32, of Columbia, watching as his Jeep was towed away.

Officials told 103 people on probation to meet their probation monitors in the Drinking Driver Monitor Program, part of the Department of Parole and Probation.

Almost 80 showed up at the program office in the Howard County District Court building. Most had rides or took the bus.

But others drove.

After starting their engines and pulling from parking spots, many were arrested by police and investigators with the Motor Vehicle Administration. The sting lasted almost seven hours.

Authorities have conducted seven stings in other counties since February, nabbing 103 illegal drivers, officials said.

"We're trying to make roadways safer places to drive," said Bob Myers, assistant chief investigator at MVA. "We're just trying to keep them off the roads."

Authorities arrested 15 people during the first sting in February at a police station in Anne Arundel County.

"I can't believe people would even drive to a police station with a suspended license," said Dr. Carl J. Lardiero, administrator of the Drinking Driver Monitoring Program.

Yesterday, the first driver tried to avert detection. He allegedly parked his car several blocks from the courthouse and walked to his appointment in the cold.

Authorities followed John T. Moore anyway. They arrested the 42-year-old Woodbine man on charges of driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Sturm parked his pickup truck in the overflow parking lot, quite a hike from the courthouse. He didn't notice the commotion only 100 feet away -- a large, mobile command center, six police cars, a prisoner van, and a dozen police officers scurrying about, not to mention other plainclothes investigators filling out tickets in their identical white cars.

Illegal drivers "don't know what they're doing," said Sgt. Morris Carroll, police spokesman. "They do it so often that it becomes second-nature for them to drive. They're not even concerned about all the police officers in the parking lot."

Sturm, who has a revoked license, said his business partner usually sits behind the wheel.

"Plain stupidity," said Sturm, 36, of Catonsville. "I'm scared to death to drive."

Stuart Friedman sells tools -- and drives everywhere.

Yesterday, the 40-year-old, convicted of driving while intoxicated in November, drove his company's pickup to visit his probation monitor.

Friedman, who is separated from his wife, pays child support.

"It's just hard for a guy supporting a child whose right to drive has been taken away," Friedman said. "I'll lose this job and have a child I can't support. I don't know how I can make a living."

About 1,300 people are on some form of drunken driving probation in Howard, said monitor Frank Turban, and almost 140 have revoked or suspended licenses.

About 3 p.m., a 21-year-old Eldersburg cook visited his probation monitor and was stopped by police as he drove away. Police checked his identification, and found his license had been reinstated Dec. 17. They let him go.

"It's hard to do all the things they make you do without a license," said the man, who refused to give his name fearing his parents would learn his license had been suspended for six months.

"All they were doing today was visiting their probation officers, like they are supposed to," he said. "I was lucky. I got rides."

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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