Two tri-county police departments and 17 local law enforcement officers were honored by the S.C. Department of Public Safety for their efforts in getting drunk drivers off the road.

Hanahan Police Patrolman 1st Class Charles E. Carnes was named Officer of the Year for departments with 26 to 50 officers and North Charleston Police Patrolman 1st Class Jonathan C. Evans was named statewide Rookie of the Year.

The honors were conferred at a DUI Enforcement Recognition ceremony in Columbia last week.

The Charleston Police Department was named Agency of the Year among the state's large departments, and the St. George Police Department was Agency of the Year for the state's smallest departments.

Carnes also received recognition for having made 44 DUI arrests in 2009. He has been with the Hanahan department for about 2 1/2 years, Hanahan Police Lt. Michael Fowler said.

"He does a very good job with it," Fowler said. "It's very important to him, and we're pleased that he was recognized for his effort."

North Charleston's Evans, statewide Rookie of the Year, made 27 DUI arrests in 2009, and he didn't start working until May.

"In my opinion, Pfc. Evans is head and shoulders above most of his fellow officers, junior and senior, in DUI enforcement," said Sgt. Timothy Blair, Evans' supervisor, in a letter nominating Evans for the award.

Evans is a regular uniform patrol officer, who must answer regular calls for service, Blair said. But he finds the time to aggressively make the streets safer by pursuing drivers who are under the influence, Blair said.

St. George Police Chief Anthony Britt said he was pleased the department's DUI efforts were recognized.

"We've had a 200 percent increase in catching and prosecuting DUI offenders since I took over," said Britt, who was named chief in April 2009. "We used to have maybe two DUI arrests a year," he said. "Now we're averaging 15 a year."

This was the second year in a row the Charleston Police Department was named Agency of the Year among large departments.

"It's a tremendous achievement when you think of where we came from, going from 125 DUI arrests four years ago to 762 last year," said police Lt. Chip Searson, commander of the traffic enforcement unit. "It's a group effort of regular patrol officers and traffic enforcement. It's hard to measure the lives that were saved by making those arrests."

Public Safety Department Director Mark Keel said the annual DUI ceremony illustrates the commitment the Highway Patrol, State Transport Police and local law enforcement agencies have toward DUI enforcement.

"DUI enforcement is more than just writing tickets and hauling drunk drivers off to jail," Keel said. "DUI enforcement is really about saving lives. People who drive drunk are road hazards who can kill someone at any moment. But strong DUI enforcement is an effective tool to combat this violent crime. The officers recognized exemplify the best of the best in DUI enforcement."

In addition, a number of officers throughout the state were recognized as DUI Heroes in bronze, silver and gold categories for their DUI arrest records in 2009.

The honorees

Receiving bronze awards for 10 to 24 DUI arrests:

--Patrol officer Tiffany N. Britton, Hanahan Police, 11 arrests

--Patrolman James Taylor, Moncks Corner Police, 14 arrests

Receiving silver awards for 25 to 49 DUI arrests:

--Patrolman 1st Class Charles E. Carnes, Hanahan Police, 44 arrests

--Patrolman 1st Class Shari Driggers, Summerville Police, 47 arrests

--Patrolman 1st Class Jonathan C. Evans, North Charleston Police, 27 arrests

--Patrolman 1st Class Nicolas Lebby, Mount Pleasant Police, 31 arrests

--Patrolman 1st Class Arthur J. Santos, Mount Pleasant Police, 31 arrests

--Patrolman 1st Class Jason Smoak, Mount Pleasant Police, 31 arrests

--Patrolman Jovan S. Vazquez, North Charleston Police, 35 arrests

Receiving gold awards for 50-plus DUI arrests:

--Senior patrol officer Henry Comer, Charleston Police, 59 arrests

--Patrol officer Octavio Fabisiewiez, Charleston Police, 118 arrests

--Senior patrol officer George Hildebidle, Charleston Police, 62 arrests

--Patrol officer Leigh A. McGowan, Charleston Police, 66 arrests

--Master police officer Matthew P. Tai, Charleston Police, 69 arrests

--Senior police officer Matthew T. Wojslawowicz, Charleston Police, 99 arrests

--Lance Cpl. Carl Woods, S.C. Highway Patrol Troop Six, 100 arrests

Reach David W. MacDougall at 937-5655 or macdougd@postandcourier.com.