22 arrests made during DWI campaign

Published 10:23 am Friday, January 22, 2016


Local law enforcement made 22 DWI arrests during a holiday enforcement period late last year that saw 2,502 arrested across Minnesota.

The Department of Public Safety released numbers for the increased drunk driving enforcement during the holiday season from Nov. 25, 2015, to Jan. 2. The Austin Police Department made 14 DWI arrests, which the Mower County Sheriff’s Office made eight.

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Those numbers show little uptick for this season, but nothing “historically strange,” according to Austin Police Captain Dave McKichan.

The Austin Police Department dedicated 80 hours of overtime shifts to traffic enforcement, starting on Thanksgiving weekend.

“Our focus here was impaired driving,” McKichan said. “The officers made 152 total traffic stops in that 80 hours, mostly doing warnings for various violations.”

He said the department averages about 270-300 DWI arrests per year, which has remained fairly consistent over a period of five years.

“It’s still too many, we’d like to see that number lessened,” McKichan said. “That’s not quite one a day, but it’s close to one impaired driver per day taken off the road and obviously we’d like to see that number a lot lower.”

The department did a lot of publicity before starting the shifts to let people know and be aware officers are out on the roads.

“Our hope is to go out and work and have enforcement if there is a drunk driver, obviously take them off the roadway, but if the other components are working — the visibility and the publicity — not encountering a lot is also a good thing within the scope of our stops,” McKichan said. “It lets us know people are making good decisions regarding not getting behind the wheel during the holidays.”

A driver with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or above can be arrested for DWI. The highest blood-alcohol concentration recorded for the Austin Police Department was 0.24 and 0.21 for Mower County.

“Unfortunately, these examples of DWI arrests are all too common,” Donna Berger, office of traffic safety director, said in a press release. “If you choose to drink, you have the responsibility to find a sober ride home. When you drive drunk, you are not only harming yourself, you are putting other lives at risk.”

A lot of factors can affect DWI numbers. Weather is the largest one. Other nights, officers might be occupied with other calls and not get a chance to do traffic enforcement, but thanks to the Toward Zero Deaths campaign, the department is able to dedicate a few officers to traffic.

“The bigger part is getting the word out because it continues to be an issue,” McKichan said. “We would prefer not to encounter you in that situation. Please make sure you pre-plan and make good decisions around impaired driving.”

Highest alcohol concentrations recorded during the extra enforcement campaign included:

•0.40: Minnetonka Police Department

•0.39: Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office

•0.35: Bloomington, Bemidji and Plymouth Police Departments

•0.34: Virginia Police Department

•0.33: Dakota, Carver and Wright County Sheriff’s Offices; St. Francis Police Department

•0.24: Austin Police Department

•0.21: Mower County Sheriff’s Office