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Business Mobile Watch joins sweep

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A year after Mobile Watch residents armed themselves with police scanners and cellular phones for the first time to sweep drunken drivers off Salt Lake roads, a new group is beginning to take part in the community's efforts to make Salt Lake City a safer place.

Owners and employees of some West Salt Lake businesses will join resident Mobile Watchers Saturday night in the city's 11th DUI sweep in almost as many months. The first DUI sweep was done the day before Mother's Day last year."We feel that businesses have a responsibility to the community," said Duncan Brockbank, owner of Pioneer Sawdust, 621 S. Fulton St. (2500 West).

Brockbank said he became interested in Mobile Watch after someone stole $600 worth of tools from an employee's truck in broad daylight. "That was the straw that broke our back." Prior to that, a nearby business had been burglarized three times in three weeks.

"We got a little frustrated," he said. So he began to contact neighboring business owners to discuss the problem and pretty soon a Mobile Watch unit had been formed. Since March, the group has recruited 10 members and has gone out mobile watching several hours every week.

The group has already been involved in stopping some crime during their late night patrolling. "It's really rewarding to help catch (a suspect)," Brockbank said.

Brockbank even provides his employees with incentives to participate in the program. He compensates every hour an employee spends mobile watching with an hour off from work. "We nicknamed it the Frequent Mobile Watchers program," he said.

Business Mobile Watch members will be a welcome addition to the DUI sweeps, said motor patrol officer Dave Warner, who oversees the DUI sweeps. After conducting sweeps for a year, authorities have statistics to prove that working with community members can pay off.

"Without a doubt, it's been successful," Warner said, citing a total of 153 drunken drivers who have been arrested during the first year of DUI sweeps. In addition, the sweeps have yielded 19 drug arrests, 572 traffic citations and 34 arrests not related to alcohol or drugs.

Warner attributes the success to the 505 Mobile Watch volunteers who have donated their time and efforts during the 10 sweeps.

"Some of these folks have been really dedicated. They've come out nearly every time," he said, noting that up to 78 volunteers have shown up.

During the sweeps, volunteers pair off, equipped with a scanner and cell phone, and drive around looking for suspicious drivers or suspicious activity. Since the volunteers only contact police dispatchers when they spot something suspicious, authorities are able to ensure the safety of participants.

"I'd like to see the numbers increase," Warner said. "If we can increase the number of officers and people we can saturate a larger area."