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DWI victim impact panel speaker joins Poloncarz, Jancewicz to spread anti-DWI message

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Thu, Apr 5th 2018 05:00 pm
Bronte Williams (center, at podium) is joined by Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz (right) and Commissioner of Central Police Services James Jancewicz (left) at an anti-DWI press event.
Bronte Williams (center, at podium) is joined by Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz (right) and Commissioner of Central Police Services James Jancewicz (left) at an anti-DWI press event.
Bronte Williams' son was killed by a drunk driver in 2013; victim impact panels have delivered over 1,000 powerful anti-DWI presentations to county residents since 1991
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Commissioner of Central Police Services James Jancewicz were joined Thursday by Bronte Williams of Buffalo to spread an anti-DWI message and review DWI numbers from the first quarter of 2018.
Williams, whose 21-year old son, Jireh, was killed by a drunk driver on the Kensington Expressway in 2013, is a member of the Erie County DWI victim impact panel ("VIP"), a group of volunteers who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers and now speak publicly about that experience. VIP speakers are inspired by the idea that retelling the most painful events of their lives might change behavior and, ultimately, others will be spared the life-altering, sad consequences of DWI.
"Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs shatters lives in an instant and brings untold pain to families and loved ones. Bronte Williams' powerful story of loss makes that pain real for all who hear it and reinforces our resolve to combat DWI with all the tools at our disposal," Poloncarz said. "The Erie County STOP-DWI Office works closely with law enforcement to not only keep impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel, but also to raise public awareness of the severe consequences for DWI offenses. This potentially life-saving message needs to be repeated as much as possible."
Williams said, "I participate in the VIP program because I want people to know that Jireh has people that love him and miss him every day. My hope is that if just one person, each time I speak, is saved from causing so much pain to families, friends and loved ones of the victims, then I'm helping to save lives. Because the ripple effect of losing a loved one unnecessarily is never ending."
The Erie County VIP was established in 1991 as part of the Erie County STOP-DWI Office. The program works in conjunction with the Erie County district attorney's victim witness assistance program to support and guide DWI victims and their families through the judicial process. Once that process is complete, the option of becoming a VIP panelist is presented.
The STOP-DWI Office, through the VIP, administratively supports victim members and promotes their method of personal communication as a DWI prevention message. Since formally organizing 27 years ago, the VIP has delivered more than 1,000 presentations to well over 100,000 Erie County residents, including high school students, community groups and individuals convicted of DWI offenses.
Poloncarz, Jancewicz and Williams were joined at the event by John Sullivan, director of the Erie County STOP-DWI Office, and Town of Hamburg Police Department Chief Greg Wickett, representing the Erie County Police Chief's Association. According to the latest data from the STOP-DWI Office, there were 666 DWI arrests in Erie County from Jan. 1 through March 31, which represents an increase of 2 percent over the 652 DWI arrests recorded in the same time period in 2017.
"An increase of 2 percent in DWI arrests is statistically small, but serves as a reminder that we always need to reinforce the anti-DWI message as much as possible," Sullivan said. "Lives are still being negatively impacted and futures irrevocably changed when drunk drivers decide to get behind the wheel rather than take advantage of any one of the many alternative ways to get home after drinking. With the help of VIP volunteers like Bronte Williams, as well as the commitment of law enforcement agencies at all levels to stop this behavior, we will continue to advocate for and promote responsible alternatives to drinking and driving."
The Erie County VIP group currently has 13 active members, including some who have been speakers for the full 27 years of the program's existence. Members commit monthly to speaking assignments and the group makes approximately 50 annual presentations involving two panelists at each engagement. The Erie County VIP volunteer group includes former offenders, personal victims, and surviving family members of victims.
For more information on the Erie County STOP-DWI Office and the VIP program, visit http://www.stopdwi.org/initiatives-Erie.

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