Starting next month, the Raleigh Police Department will be setting up more DWI checkpoints around the city. At least two of these will be in close proximity to campus.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded RPD a $525,270 federal grant for DWI enforcement, according to The News & Observer. The grant will allow the department to form a new unit, which will include four officers and one sergeant. The unit will be outfitted with new vehicles, uniforms and portable breathalyzers. The grant will also pay for salaries, training and additional equipment for an additional three years.
Lt. Tim Tomczak, who helped develop the grant proposal, said that while RPD currently makes about 1,500 arrests per year, the department now expects to see each officer make 150 to 200 arrests during a span of 12 months, culminating to 2,000 to 2,400 arrests per year.
According to Tomczak, the squad will have two purposes. The first will be to contribute to the overarching goal to prevent crashes, especially those that result in death and injury caused by impaired driving. The second, according to Tomczack, “will be to get out there and be seen and let people who are impaired know that they should find another way home other than driving.”
RPD will concentrate on stopping impaired drivers by organizing specific checkpoints, which will be selected by statistical methods.
“It’s almost like fishing, you go where you know you’re going to catch fish,” Tomczak said. “If you’ve been to one location, and you’ve never caught fish in your life, I wouldn’t expect to catch fish there this time. But if you know, that you go over here that you throw live in the water, and you know you’re going to catch fish, chances are you’re going to be successful.”
Tomczack said current checkpoints have yielded tremendous success in upholding the law.
“I can tell you that one of the most successful checkpoints was on Capitol Boulevard,” Tomczak said. “We made an arrest every nine minutes. That’s phenomenal if you think about that. In the course of an hour you’re going to have at least six impaired drivers drive by.”
Downtown Raleigh will certainly be a significant target due to the high volume of bars and restaurants there, t but he new squad will not be exclusively pinned to the area, Tomczak said
“These officers will work around the entire city,” Tomczak said. “There are impairment-related crashes around the entire city. Are there more in downtown Raleigh? There absolutely are, but I believe this is more of a function of the large number of restaurants and bars in the area. But there are problems with impaired driving across the entire city.”
Drivers on campus should be wary of the two significant hot spots for arrests on Western Boulevard, between Gorman Street and I-440 and on Hillsborough Street, between Dan Allen Road and I-440.
Jeff Mickel, the general manager of The Flying Saucer, welcomed the increased strength by law enforcement.
“We’re certainly not happy to see anybody drunk driving, and if this limits that, then that’s good,” Mickel said. “As long as that money and enforcement is used properly, I see it as a good sign.”
According to Mickel, enforcement in the area could result in folks staying closer to home if they plan to consume alcohol, but he said he felt that more downtown visitors are concerned with a safer environment.
N.C. State Campus Police declined to comment on this story. However, Police Chief Jack Moorman said in an email that his department works hard to address DWIs on campus.
“DWIs and other offenses that jeopardize the safety of our campus community are crimes that we take very seriously and aggressively enforce with zero tolerance,” Moorman said.