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Seat belt violators put on notice

DULUTH - City of Duluth police and Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic officers issued 14 citations for drivers and passengers not wearing seat belts Wednesday afternoon.

Sgt. Jill Manders of the Duluth Police Department, said 15 officers, including the HEAT officers, blocked a section of North Berkeley Lake Road near Pleasant Hill Road and Buford Highway to make sure drivers and passengers were wearing seat belts and issuing tickets if not.

The block was one of the department's bimonthly seat belt checks required by the Govenor's Office of Highway Safety and the "Click it or Ticket" program.

The Govenor's Office issued a grant to the department in 2005 to start the HEAT unit, consisting of officers devoted to safe driving education and enforcing traffic laws, including DUIs, speeding and seat belt violations.

Duluth Master Patrol Officer Bobby Johnson said Duluth is the only municipality in Gwinnett County with a HEAT unit.

Johnson and Master Patrol Officer Joe Tomalka, who make up the city's HEAT unit, said they give out approximately 50 seat belt violations and make nearly 30 DUI arrests each month.

"We want to be out there and prevent people from being killed and warnings aren't very effective. That's why we have the checkpoints and give out citations."

Although Tomalka said he thinks the checkpoints are effective, officers continue to make arrests and write violations for the same offenses.

"I hate to say it, but we keep busy," said Tomalka.