With most crimes, in most cities, a reduction in the numbers is something to be desired. In Santa Barbara County, however, DUI arrests are way up — and that’s a very good thing.
Some of the county’s most prolific and effective DUI-busters were honored Tuesday at a reception cosponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), and Avoid the 12. The event, in addition to presenting those distinguished officers with awards, was also dedicated to a presentation from a representative from the California District Attorney’s Association, highlighting resources available to police officers to help secure a conviction.
The officers, collectively responsible for 1,650 of Santa Barbara’s 3,100 DUI arrests in 2009, were presented with awards by MADD. Officer Kasi Buetel of the Santa Barbara Police Department, who tops the list with 349 arrests, was on her honeymoon and unable to attend.
The figure of 3,100 DUI arrests is itself a bright spot for the county, marking a significant increase from 2006’s 2,600 arrests. Much of the increase can be attributed to the actions of MADD and the OTS, both of which have made available grants and resources to deal with DUIs.
Officer Israel Reyes of Guadalupe, honored for his 44 DUI arrests along the 166 freeway, cites in no uncertain terms the positive influence of the grants, which make available overtime pay, a dedicated car for monitoring for DUIs, and additional training.
The congratulatory mood was punctuated by a somber address by Peter Lominick, whose son Max, a professional baseball player, was killed by a drunk driver in Florida. “This is a life sentence,” Lominick said of his family’s anguish.
Stephen Wagner, a traffic safety resource proscecutor with the California District Attorney’s Association, stressed the importance of cooperation between law enforcement and prosecutors, as well as his colleagues’ commitment to that mission.
Among the resources he outlined to investigate and prosecute DUIs was Alcoholic Beverage Control’s TRACE program, which allows investigators to determine where alcohol was purchased, and the ARIDE program, which helps officers spot nonalcohol-related impairment
“You’ve got to know what you’re looking for,” Officer Reyes said of drunk drivers. With more resources available for training and supporting law enforcement personnel, spotting and apprehending DUI suspects will be more efficient than ever, allowing officers like Reyes to keep the streets safe.