June 11, 2013
St. Clair and Bibb county authorities are confirming there were roadblocks at several locations in their counties Friday and Saturday asking for blood and DNA samples. However, the samples were voluntary and motorists were paid for them as part of a study, they said.
According to Lt. Freddie Turrentine of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, it isn’t the first time such roadblocks have occurred in the area.
“They were here in 2007,” said Turrentine, the supervisor in charge of the roadblocks, which took place in several locations in St. Clair County Friday night, early Saturday morning and Saturday night and early Sunday morning. “It’s just with social media and Facebook now, word of it has just exploded.”
Turrentine said the roadblocks were part of a study conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. St. Clair County was asked to participate by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs because it had worked with the group six years ago.
Sheriff Keith Hannah in Bibb County said they too had previously participated in the study.
Here’s how the road blocks worked, Turrentine said:
Off-duty St. Clair County deputies stopped cars at random at road block areas. The road blocks were marked with signs stating it was a paid survey. Cars stopped were asked for voluntary cooperation. Drivers were offered $10 for a mouth swab, and $50 for a blood test. If they refused, they were free to drive away. An official with the NHTSA said later that DNA was not collected as part of the survey, but only saliva and breath samples.
Road blocks took place Friday at the New London Fire Department, Alabama 34 in Pell City near the old Dan’s Car Wash, U.S. 231 at Alabama 144, at White’s Chapel Parkway and Moody Crossroads in Moody. In Bibb County, the road blocks took place in five areas in the county on Friday night through early Sunday morning.
If drivers participated, they were directed to an area where someone from the group carrying out the study took the samples, he said.
“It was completely voluntary,” Turrentine said, saying reports that people were detained if they did not cooperate were untrue. “If they didn’t want to take part, they could drive off.”
The samples were anonymous, he said.