St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office secures the streets to keep drivers safe from possible drunk drivers


ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Highway Patrol and St. Augustine Police Department are pushing to keep the roads safe on St. Patrick’s Day with the DUI ‘Operation Wolfpack’.

St. Patrick’s Day is one of the biggest drinking days of the year, which means it can also be a very dangerous day for drivers on the road.

The sheriff’s office said the operation is part of its “commitment to reduce deaths, injuries and property damage associated with traffic crashes related to impaired driving.”

News4JAX took a ride with a corporal, who is part of the DUI Unit, to learn more about the operation and see what signs they look for when they are patrolling.

“Our goal... is to create a safer environment here in St. John’s County. We’re never going to be able to completely eliminate impaired driving because there’s more citizens than there are law enforcement officers, but if we can get the message out there — that don’t drink and drive, don’t come to St. John’s County and drink and drive, don’t do it period —then that is our main goal,” Corporal Alex Ellis with the DUI Unit told News4JAX.

The group headed out around 7 p.m. and will be patrolling until the early morning, when many bars are closing.

Ellis said on the ride-along that he was looking out for signs- including drivers weaving or drifting in and out of traffic.

Ellis also pulled over a truck that appeared to be speeding. Initially, the driver showed signs of impairment like smelling like alcohol, according to Ellis. The driver passed a field sobriety test and was good to go.

This corporal also shared how his personal experiences, including losing one of his comrades to a DUI crash, have motivated him to continue to push for safer streets.

“My former zone partner, his name is Mike Magli. When I was at Pinellas, he was actually hit and killed by a drunk driver. So, it kind of reignited that passion in me to go out and remove those impaired drivers,” he said.

Law enforcement officers urge drivers to never drink and drive, and offered ways to avoid drinking while driving such as planning a designated driver or an alternative safe way home or call a taxi or ride-sharing service.

The sheriff’s office said 1,469 DUI arrests were made across St. John’s County in 2022.

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.