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Northern Cheyenne and Crow Agency law enforcement officials plan to step up safety checkpoints and increase patrols around the clock during the holiday season, both departments announced.

Mobilization will take place on the Crow Reservation today through Jan. 3, and on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation Dec. 21 through Jan. 3.

The tribes are two of six in the state that plan to take part in the annual “Don’t Shatter the Dream” mobilization, said Sgt. Pernell Brown, highway safety officer for the Northern Cheyenne agency.

“Traffic safety enforcement will be the emphasis of the additional patrol,” Brown said in a news release. “Officers will be concentrating on seat belt laws and getting drunk drivers off the roads.”

Northern Cheyenne officers made 22 DUI arrests during December 2008, he said. Checkpoints appear to deter driving under the influence of alcohol, Brown said.

Safety checkpoints operated by Crow Reservation law enforcement has been credited with helping to reduce alcohol-related fatalities, said Chief of Police Willard “Mike” Cuny of the BIA’s Crow Agency department.

Alcohol use still contributes to a high percentage of roadway deaths among the Crow, he said. Of the 18 American Indian fatalities on the Crow Reservation from 2004 to 2008, alcohol was involved in 15 deaths, or 83.3 percent. On other tribal lands in the United States, that percentage is only 57 percent.

“Drunk drivers are deadly,” Cuny said. “They also are involved in a higher number of severe-injury crashes.”

Like the Northern Cheyenne, patrols on the Crow Reservation will emphasize the need to wear seat belts, Cuny said.

“Wearing seat belts should be the new tradition in Crow Country,” he said.

The enhanced enforcement for all of the participating reservations is funded under a grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian Highway Safety, as well as by the Montana Department of Transportation.

“Our job is to protect residents of tribal communities from unsafe drivers,” Cuny said.

“In turn, they can protect themselves by using their seat belts and never riding with a driver who has been drinking.”