DRIVEsoberSMALLOfficers with the Benton Police Department are continuing the “Be Someone’s Sweetheart and Rethink Your Drink” initiative to keep intoxicated drivers off the city streets. After catching six DWI offenders between Feb. 1-7, officers have arrested five more recently (Feb. 9-17), bring the total to 11 since the initiative launch on Feb. 1.

Every year, more than 10,322 people are killed by drunk drivers in America, and in Arkansas in 2013, of the 499 fatality accidents 41 percent – 203 fatality accidents - involved alcohol and/or drugs (Arkansas Highway Safety Office). This is why throughout February, the DWI task force will be in full operation along with enhanced patrol techniques to detect and arrest violators.

• At approximately 9:33 p.m. Feb. 8, dispatch received calls of a possibly intoxicated driver at the I-30 exit 114 McDonalds location. Officers made contact with 23-year-old Hayley Wilfong Helsham of Benton. Helsham denied drinking, but registered a 0.124 percent blood-alcohol content level. Helsham was taken into custody and faces a charge of DWI.

• At approximately 1:21 p.m. Feb. 13, officers conducted a traffic stop on 58-year-old Jessie Lee Knight of Benton at Edison and Cox for failure to stop at a stop sign. Officers noticed the odor of alcohol and a beer can in open view. Knight reportedly registered a 0.119 percent blood-alcohol content level. Knight was taken into custody and faces charges of DWI and Driving on a Suspended Driver’s License.

• During a traffic stop at approximately 12:30 a.m. Feb. 14 on South Highway 5, officers noticed the odor of intoxicants from the driver 51-year-old Kenneth Kendrick of Bauxite. After a standardized field sobriety test, Kendrick reportedly registered a 0.14 percent blood-alcohol content level. Kendrick was taken into custody and faces charges of DWI, Driving on a Suspended Driver’s License, and Unsafe Driving.

• At approximately 7:23 a.m. Feb. 16, officers responded to a two vehicle accident with injury on Congo Road. John A. Smith, 48, of Haskell reportedly first denied driving one of the vehicles, but later admitted to being a driver. A witness told officers that a black pouch was thrown into the bushes near the wrecked vehicles. Officers located the bag and found it contained a set of digital scales and two baggies with 21.1 grams of suspected methamphetamine. Smith was taken into custody and faces charges of felony Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute, felony Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, DWI, Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing, and Careless and Prohibited Driving.

• During a traffic stop on Military Road at approximately 9:49 p.m. Feb. 16, officers noticed the odor of intoxicants on the driver 51-year-old Cynthia Ramirez of Hot Springs, as well as open beer containers and suspected marijuana in open view. During a search of the vehicle, officers seized 7.7 grams of suspected marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Ramirez was taken into custody and later registered a 0.09 percent blood-alcohol content level. Ramirez faces charges of DWI and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. A passenger, 55-year-old Thomas Paul Harrison of Benton was also taken into custody and faces charges of Possession of a Controlled Substance (marijuana) and Drinking in Public.

The only way to truly avoid a DWI is to drive sober. There are many ways to get home safely after drinking, and driving isn’t one of them. Designate a sober driver ahead of time, call a friend or family member, or call a taxi. The cost of cab fare is nothing compared to a DWI charge or the cost of someone’s life.

“The Benton Police Department is ramping up their enforcement to make our roads safer and we have zero tolerance for intoxicated drivers,” Chief Kirk Lane said. “For everyone’s sake, don’t drink and drive or drive while drugged or you will be arrested.”

To report suspicious driving and/or accidents, call the Benton Police Department at 501-778-1171 or 501-315-TIPS. Individuals also may send us anonymous information to CRIMES (274637) with the keyword BNPD in the body of the text or go to to leave a tip. A crime tip can also be submitted via the official Benton Police Department app found on ITunes and Google Play.

Any suspects listed are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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