Surprise... You're Getting Pulled Over - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Surprise... You're Getting Pulled Over

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by Alex Schuman

achuman@myabc5.com

Police departments across the metro traditionally wait until October before they hold their safety check point, but this year, they picked the start of Memorial Day weekend. 

At the check point, police can inspect your car even if you haven't done anything wrong.

"We find everything from guns to drugs - to drunk people - to kids improperly seatbelted," said Deputy Brian Anderson with the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

It seems like setting up a random checkpoint like the one on Hickman Road in Urbandale Friday would be a good way to surprise some criminals.

"We found a couple runaways, some wanted people that have come through," Anderson said about past stings.

Police have to make sure they follow strict guidelines to keep the entire process legal.

"We have to have signs a certain distance from the check point," said Sgt. Jana Rooker, Polk County Sheriff's Office.

The check point is designed so that there is no way a driver can miss the warnings as they are approaching. Police also have to ensure someone who does not want to get searched has plenty of roads to turn away and avoid the risk of being taken aside by police.

"There's several options to take a different route prior to getting this far," Rooker said.

Once drivers make it to the check point, they will only be stopped if they are the lucky number. That is chosen depending on how busy the street is.  Police may pick every 5th car or, like Friday, every 10th. 

"If the 10th car's a police car it's gonna come in, we'll do a quick safety check on it," said Anderson.  "Doctors, lawyers, anybody.  We've had our own officers, senior officers come with their families and they get inspected so nobody gets through."

After drivers are inside the check point, cars do not automatically get searched. That only happens if something comes up while police check things like your headlights and registration.

"It's just when they stop and talk to 'em basically like a traffic stop," said Rooker describing the process.  "It definitely is successful."

A big part of these stops is also safety education.  So police give out a t-shirt and little football to everyone they pull over.  The t-shirts are blue and look like a jersey with the number .08 on the back.

The checkpoint lasted from 6 p.m. Friday till 1 a.m. Saturday.

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