EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story includes statistics regarding DUI arrests and cases. Driving under the influence arrests do not always equate to suspected drunken driving — some are for DUI drugs. Further, not all arrests necessarily result in a DUI conviction.
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — DUI arrests made by the sheriff’s office in Incline Village have gone down nearly 50 percent from 2012, continuing a downward trend that officials say is due to better public education and focused enforcement.
As of Monday, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office have made 61 driving under the influence arrests in the community in 2013, down from 121 arrests a year ago. The decrease is more significant when going back several years — according to previous reports, WCSO made 251 DUI arrests in 2007 and 214 in 2008.
The stats aren’t specific to Incline, said Washoe County Undersheriff Tim Kuzanek, but are reflective of a downward trend nationwide, likely due to a substantial increase in anti-drinking and driving campaigns.
“I am hopeful that a large percentage of that decrease is the result of successful law enforcement campaigns … reminding drivers that deputies will arrest you if you are caught driving while under the influence of alcohol,” Kuzanek said.
While the department has seen a decrease in staffing over the years due Washoe County budget cuts as part of the Great Recession, Kuzanek said that doesn’t mean fewer patrols equates to fewer arrests.
The sheriff’s office in January 2009 reorganized patrols into North and South districts, a change from previous designations focused in Incline and Reno. The department’s Area Crime Evaluation System — a tool officials have pointed to as an effective way to battle crime with fewer resources — was implemented at the same time.
“ACES provides real time data about trends, allowing us to direct resources where needed to reduce negative activity, whether that activity be DUIs, or, as you have seen recently, residential and vehicle burglaries,” Kuzanek said.
“It’s also worth noting that the number of motor vehicle crashes handled by the sheriff’s office in Incline Village during this same period (2012 through Jan. 20 of 2013) remained static,” Kuzanek added.
‘BEING MORE RESPONSIBLE’
The Nevada Highway Patrol has seen a 29 percent decrease in DUI arrests for the Lake Tahoe area from 2012 to 2013 (through November), said NHP Sgt. Randy Jackson.
“I can’t tell you exactly why, but our hope would be that people are taking it more seriously and being more responsible, and limiting their driving and drinking habits,” said Jackson, who oversees the department’s Tahoe region, which patrols Highway 28 and U.S. Highway 50 from Incline to Stateline.
For NHP, a variety of internal promotions and reassignments led to a 50 percent decrease in Tahoe officers (from four to two) for portions of 2012 and half of 2013, Jackson said.
“It could be one of many contributing factors …. but I wouldn’t really pin it on any one specific element,” Jackson said. “We’re very close or similar to what other agencies are experiencing.”
On the California side, the trend over the past two years isn’t as significant.
The Truckee branch of the California Highway Patrol — which patrols Interstate 80 and portions of highways 28, 89 and 267 — had tallied 267 DUI arrests as of Nov. 30, 2013. While that number is up from 261 in all of 2012, it’s a large decrease from the 354 arrests made in 2008.
With the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, statistics are tracked in Homewood, Tahoma, Olympic Valley, Tahoe City, Kings Beach and parts of Truckee, said Lt. Alfredo Guitron.
Through Dec. 20, deputies reported 151 DUI arrests for 2013, with 181 coming in 2012. This year, 54 of the cases came from Kings Beach, while 66 came from Tahoe City. Last year, 62 happened in Kings Beach, with 74 in Tahoe City.
Within town limits in Truckee, the police department there has recorded 88 DUI arrests this year as of Monday, down from 106 arrests in 2012. This year’s numbers are down roughly 40 percent from 147 arrests in 2010.
‘A SERIOUS DETRIMENT’
While it’s tough to pinpoint reasons, Truckee Police Chief Adam McGill agreed that public education likely has played a role.
“Crime nationally has been trending downward for the last 20 years or so — DUIs could just be a micro of the larger positive trend of reduced crime/arrests,” he said. “Demographics likely play a part as well … Truckee draws a fairly affluent type of tourists — likely highly (educated) and professional, so DUIs can be a serious detriment to their careers.”
As for staffing, the department has had a number of vacancies each of the past two years, due to retirements.
“With the time it takes to actually hire and train someone, we had less police officers patrolling at various times...” McGill said.
As for enforcement, Truckee treats suspected DUI drivers with a no-tolerance policy.
“The minor philosophical adjustment we made two years ago is we do not intentionally ‘fish’ or park and wait for impaired individuals to leave (and) allow them to knowingly get into their vehicles and drive away so we an arrest them for DUI,” McGill said. “Officers have been instructed to interrupt that crime before it occurs and prevent the person from ever driving.”
With New Year’s Eve looming, McGill added that it “wouldn’t surprise” him if arrests for 2013 are pretty close to 2012.
As of Christmas Eve, regional law enforcement weren’t planning any DUI checkpoints in the North Tahoe/Truckee area leading up to and including New Year’s Day.
However, resident and visitors can expect increased patrols.
“Every officer will be working. We want to ensure a safe holiday season for everyone,” said CHP spokesman Pete Mann. “We will have extra DUI roving enforcement throughout the entire North Tahoe and Truckee area … our main focus will be looking for impaired drivers.”
WCSO will deploy “dedicated DUI units” in Incline Village on New Year’s Eve, Kuzanek said, and deputies “will actively be looking for intoxicated drivers as part of their patrol responsibilities.”
“We’re definitely going to be out there stepping up our patrols,” Jackson added. “It’s important again for people to be mindful of the safety of other motorists while they’re out enjoying the holidays.”