Nashville, Tn. Knows it has a serious problem with drivers operating motor vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Despite cutbacks to its department, the Metro Police Department’s officers have been arresting drunken drivers at a surprising pace.
According to www.tennessean.com, on any given night, there are 20 to 30 fewer Metro police officers than there were two years ago scouring the streets for impaired drivers.
Could they have the answer? The Metro Police Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol have been coping with fewer resources but have increased the number of people arrested for DUI this year when compared with last year.
They have accomplished this be re-evaluating their priorities. Metro doubled the size of its DUI squad from four to eight last August. The squad patrols for drunken drivers but also supports patrol officers who make DUI stops and run DUI checkpoints.
This year the numbers tell the story. Metro officers had arrested 918 people for DUI, compared with 632 for the same period last year.
“Going from a million (dollars) to $399,000 was extremely difficult. We’ve grown used to having all those extra-duty officers out on the street,” said Lt. Keith Stephens, Traffic Section commander for Metro police. “It’s drastically reduced that.”
Responsible for the change in policy is Police Chief Steve Anderson who has made DUIs a priority.
He understands the correlation between impaired drivers and fatalities.
The squad’s output has skyrocketed, with arrests up 96 percent so far this year compared to last year. That doesn’t include arrests made by officers outside the DUI squad.
The THP last year made DUIs its top priority in an effort to reduce traffic fatalities. One of its first moves was by shifting troopers’ schedules to allow more to focus on drunken drivers and analyze data to find stretches of road that have proved particularly troublesome
Is it working? If the fact that there were fewer fatalities — 947 in 2011 vs. 1,030 in 2010, then yes it is.
This is one example of a department shifting its priority and making a difference. It would be interesting to see if crime has increased due to the shift. Perhaps increased use of alcohol classes and alcohol will fuel a decline in DUI behavior.