Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - January 15, 2010

Stepped-up law enforcement over holidays keeps DUI arrests low

More than 1,900 people were arrested in the Bay Area for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs during a regional anti-DUI crackdown over the Christmas and New Year's Day period that began Dec. 18 and ended Jan. 3. The regional "Avoid" campaign, which involved 125 Bay Area law enforcement agencies, including Pleasanton's Police Department, netted a total 1,960 arrests. Last year, the winter holiday Avoid campaign netted 3,261 arrests in the Bay Area. There were five DUI-involved fatal collisions in the region during the 2008 enforcement period, while there were two this year. More drunken drivers were arrested by California Highway Patrol officers over the New Year's weekend in the Bay Area than in 2009, with 160 drivers charged with being under the influence, up from the 2009 total of 116 during the same reporting period. The CHP reported no fatalities on Bay Area highways and freeways it patrolled during their Maximum Enforcement Period.

Jan Ford of the Avoid Campaign said the decrease in DUI arrests could indicate that drivers have become more aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. She called it a "tremendous drop this year, which makes us very happy because it sounds to us like people are getting the message about driving sober."

The news was even better in Pleasanton where tough police enforcement led to the arrest of 13 drivers on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, down one from a year ago. Last year, there were two accidents attributed to drunken driving; this year there were none. Even the number of accidents over the New Year's weekend was down, totaling eight compared to 13 in the same period a year ago. The only numbers that increased, in fact, were calls to the police department to report problems, but Police Capt. Dave Spiller said that's a number he likes to see rise because it shows more residents are watching their neighborhoods and helping police by reporting suspicious activity. He credits the department's Outreach program, which encourages citizens to call police if they see unusual activities near their homes or elsewhere in the city, including retail center parking lots.

As for New Year's Eve itself, Spiller said the city was quiet and calm, with party-goers celebrating inside and using designated drivers if they had to use a car to go home. It's always good news to report no fatalities, few arrests and a calm, peaceful community on New Year's Eve, often the most difficult night of the year for police everywhere.

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