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1/16/2013 4:49:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
DUI holiday arrests down
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer

Results are in from the recent Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over enforcement campaign and Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties. There were 38 fewer arrests made this year compared to last year during the holiday season.

All three counties conducted extra DUI enforcment starting Nov. 21 through Jan. 1. In Chelan County, 33 people were arrested for drinking and driving during this time. In Douglas and Okanogan counties, 21 people were arrested for DUI. Statewide, law enforcment officers arrested 3,446 drivers for DUI.

During the same time period last year, officers on routine and extra patrols in Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties arrested 92 people for DUI.

"Several of us talked about the lower numbers and figured there are a number of reasons why this was," said Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett.

Only four people were arrested in the three-county area for driving under the influence on New Year's Eve 2012, which is one of the biggest nights for DUI arrests. In 2011, there were seven arrests made on New Year's Eve.

One of the reasons Burnett believes the DUI numbers are lower than last year is beucase of all the campaigning done for Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

"We believe word is getting out that we will have extra patrols during this time. I think the advertising of the campaign helps but how big of an influence it has or what percetnage it is, I don't know," Burnett said. "There are other things too."

Because there is less money in the grant for the campaign compared to previous years, there were fewer patrols happening during this time. This year, the Chelan County Sheriff's Office clocked in 28 hours of extra patrolling during the DUI emphasis.

Burnett said because there were not as many hours funded in the grant as previous years, there were not as many officers out on the roads patrolling. He also said the amount of people arrested for DUI has a lot to do with chance.

"There were days when I used to patrol the streets and I would go out there and I couldnt believe how everytime I turned the corner someone was doing something really dumb in front of me. Other times I'd be out here and things would be slow and you would be trying to find a contact and you literally couldnt find a vioaltion," Burnett said. "A lot of times it's just situaitons and circumstances as well."

The target is to have a minimum of three stops an hour while officers are out working the emphasis on DUI. Burnett said the officers are looking for simple violations to make contact with drivers. Once an officer finds a simple vioation such as running a red light, failing to signal, or speeding, the driver is pulled over and the officer checks for signals of a DUI. If the driver does not indicate a drinking and driving violation, the officer educates the driver about the emphasis and either lets them go or cites them if the violation is big enough.

"You really want to get the aggressive drivers and make DUI arrests. It doesn't mean you don't write tickets for other things but at the same time your focus is on DUI's," Burnett said. "There are other times when you pull over a driver and instantly you know this person is intoxicated. You look for distorted speech and the smell of alcohol and then do an investigation for DUI."

In Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties, the Brewster, East Wenathcee, Wenathcee police departments, the Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan county sheriff's offices and the Washington State Patrol particpated in the extra DUI patrols, with the support of the Chelan-Douglas Target Zero Traffic Safety Task Force. The extra patrols were funded by a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

Each year, the WTSC gets funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to sponsor events in an effort to reduce DUI crashes, injuries and deaths. Officers in Washington have been doing extra patrolling for DUI's during the St. Patrick's Day holiday, Thanksgiving through New Years, and the beginning and end of summer for the last 10 years.

Kristina Moy, Media Consultant for Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, said the holiday season is an important time for these extra patrols because of the number of holiday festivities that often involve alcohol.

"I think it [DUI campaign in Chelan County] went well, Burnett said. "Obviously they want the numbers but we want compliants too. We won't have a lot of info on how these campaigns go until we have a few years of statistics."

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 782-3781 or reporter@cashmerevalleyrecord.com.

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