Police reports of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs increased approximately 44 percent in Tempe and near the ASU campus between 2011 and 2012.
After a spike in DUI arrests, the Tempe Police Department is taking an integrated approach to combat the rise in people who drive while impaired, department spokeswoman Molly Enright said in an email.
“The Tempe Police Department takes a comprehensive approach that bridges community-based policing with intelligence-led policing,” she said. “DUI enforcement continues to be a high priority for the Tempe Police Department and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.”
The Office of Highway safety grants funding to all Arizona law enforcement for DUI operations, Enright said.
On Feb. 20, Gov. Jan Brewer announced the allocation of $7.5 million toward a “joint-action plan” that would focus on enforcing, educating for and engineering safer roadways in Arizona.
According to the governor’s press release, much of this funding will be dedicated to DUI patrols and checkpoints, including specialized equipment and vehicles. Other portions of the funds will go toward educational programs and media campaigns.
Valley police are already acting on the increased funding from the Governor’s Office, Enright said.
“The Tempe Police Department, Scottsdale Police Department and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will be working in cooperation with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in participating in a joint DUI Task Force Sunday, March 17,” Enright said.
The enforcement effort will begin in conjunction with St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
During the last four years, Tempe Police reported 7,750 total DUI arrests, with 2,439 coming from 2012. In 2009 there were 1,918 arrests, 1,698 in 2010 and 1,695 arrests in 2011.
DUI arrests are highest in August, May, October and December, according to ASU Police. In the last three semesters, the department has arrested more than 70 people on suspicion of DUI.
Tempe Police Sgt. Steve Carbajal, who works in the department’s traffic bureau, said that one of the three fatal Tempe collisions in 2012 happened because the driver was intoxicated.
Tempe Police maintain that the results of past campaigns, including the final tally of 2012′s seizure of close to 1,800 fake IDs at local businesses in Tempe, will help to make an impact on 2013′s total number of DUI arrests.
“This is illustrative of the commitment and dedication by the management of Tempe businesses to follow the law and prevent the serious consequences that can result from underage drinking,” Enright said.
The two departments are counting on each other to continue to keep the number of arrests down, Enright said. She said the department works closely with ASU Police, the ASU Student Judicial Affairs Office, ASU Off-Campus Student Services and the Tempe Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking and Drug Use.
While the Tempe and ASU police departments are working together to combat the problem, their collective message doesn’t seem memorable to some students.
Psychology freshman Destiny Whipple said the University should do more to teach students about the dangers of driving while impaired.
“ASU could do something to educate students through the ASU 101 class that many freshman take,” she said.
Some kind of partnership with the more popular local bars and ASU might keep students from taking the risk of drinking and driving, global studies junior Garret Rzepecki said.
“I think the best way to educate the community would be in a way that wasn’t pestering or overbearing to students,” Rzepecki said. “There are better ways to prevent it instead of just relying on common sense. ASU could offer rides like the ones that take people to their cars or dorms late at night.”
Tempe Police regularly offer tips to keep the likelihood of a DUI from affecting others, including designating sober drivers, utilizing public transportation and keeping the size and noise of parties down.
“We want people to enjoy themselves — responsibly and lawfully,” Enright said. “The reality is that on a daily basis, police employees see lives tragically, negatively and irrevocably impacted because of poor decisions and failure to plan ahead.”
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