Operation Thunder slightly slows business in bars - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

Operation Thunder slightly slows business bars

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Winding down on the last 30 days of Operation Thunder, the Richmond County Sheriff's Office says they're seeing a drastic change on Augusta roadways.

"It's making people do what they're supposed to do which is: call a designated driver, buckle up, have your insurance, have all your proper documentation before you get into the car to drive," said Lt. Ramon Lamkin, commander of RCSO's the traffic division.

Operation Thunder is a campaign cracking down on all driving offenses, from riding without a seatbelt, to driving under the influence. So far they've issued hundreds of citations for seatbelt and child restraint traffic violations. RCSO has caught two dozen fugitives, and have made 50 drug arrests. But a major focus is on drunk drivers. Deputies have taken more than 200 drunk drivers off the streets, and their aggressive efforts are making a difference.

"We're starting to see more people call taxi cabs to come and pick them up; more designated drivers so that's a good thing," Lt. Lamkin said.

But deputies aren't the only ones noticing a change through the safe-driving initiative.

Restaurants and bars in Augusta say they're not seeing as many customers strolling in on the weekends; which means less revenue coming into their bars.

"When it started, you could see how business died down," said Sharma Cartwright, he works at a lounge downtown. "And a lot of times, people wouldn't come out because of that, they didn't want to get stopped. Not that they were doing anything wrong, but you never know."

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office says the Augusta License and Inspection department showed a one percent drop of alcohol excise tax paid by businesses selling alcohol, in comparison to last year.

"It's good in a sense, but it's bad when it comes to downtown," Cartwright said. "It's really stopped people from coming down here."

Still…no matter how much Operation Thunder is costing restaurants and bars, deputies say you can't put a price on saving a life.

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