Laurel Middelaer thanks an officer at a ceremony Thursday at Southridge School

Laurel Middelaer thanks an officer at a ceremony Thursday at Southridge School

Alexa’s Team recognized

228 RCMP officers honoured in memory of four-year-old victim

Officers who helped remove nearly 8,000 impaired drivers from B.C. roads last year are the newest members of a team formed in memory of four-year-old drunk-driving victim Alexa Middelaer.

A ceremony Thursday at Southridge School in South Surrey – where Alexa’s mom, Laurel Middelaer, is a principal – celebrated 95 of those 228 officers, including four who patrol Surrey’s streets: Cpl. Bryan Fedirchuk and Consts. Dmytro Ivanov, Raymond Lee and Joseph McGhee.

Collectively, the four removed 143 impaired drivers from the city’s streets in 2012.

The remaining 133 officers will be inducted into Alexa’s Team in events to be held in Victoria, Kelowna and Prince George in the coming weeks.

Alexa’s Team was formed in 2008, not long after the four-year-old – who attended preschool in Crescent Beach – died. Her aunt was seriously injured.

Carol Berner, the driver who hit Alexa, began serving her 2½-year sentence just last month, after losing her final appeal.

Alexa’s parents have advocated for tougher restrictions and penalties for impaired drivers.

Since 2010, statistics show the number of fatalities related to impaired driving have dropped significantly to 73 in 2011 from 126 the year before. Preliminary data for 2012 shows an historic low of 59.

The number of impaired-driving charges has also dropped, a trend officials say suggests that public attitudes and behaviours when it comes to the practice are changing.

Laurel Middelaer, who held a small orange Croc – one of her daughter’s favourite shoes – for part of the ceremony, said the decline in fatalities and injuries is heartening.

“Improving public safety is a tangible difference that we can make to honour those who suffered loss on our roads,” she said in a statement. “We thank the officers for honouring our daughter, Alexa, in this notable way and for serving our communities with their excellence.”

In its first year, Alexa’s Team welcomed 26 members; in 2009, the number jumped to 177; in 2010, 216 officers were honoured.

Last year, 355 officers were inducted.

Collectively, the officers have removed more than 41,000 impaired drivers from B.C. roads; 7,865 of those in 2012.