Escondido Police Department’s great reveal about its Jan. 28 DUI/Drivers License checkpoint took some reading between the lines to get the rest of the story.
Nowhere in Lt. Mike Kearney’s “Sobriety Enforcement Results” was the most pertinent subject of a DUI/Drivers License checkpoint revealed in so many words.
Which is to say, yet again, the sobriety enforcement roadblock yielded no DUI suspects.
“Checkpoints are placed in locations that have the greatest opportunity for achieving drunk and drugged driving deterrence and provide the greatest safety for officers and the public,” Kearney said in a DUI Checkpoint Results news release issued Feb. 25.
In the case of last month’s checkpoint, Centre City Parkway and Decatur Way was the chosen location for the checkpoint. Coincidentally, that’s across the street from Escondido Police Department headquarters at 1163 Centre City Parkway.
So, the greatest opportunity to catch drunk drivers is when they zip past the one place in the world they wouldn’t want to be seen, i.e. police headquarters. Must be true, as this location has been used at least four times before in the last year.
“A major component of these checkpoints,” Kearney said, are the deterrent effects it has on those who might drive alcohol or drug impaired, bringing about more awareness and encouraging everyone to use sober designated drivers.”
Another major component in the effort apparently is the annual state of California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) grants through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the checkpoints that pay for equipment and salaries of officers — they receive overtime benefits.
In the past, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have participated in the DUI checkpoints, although they weren’t specified as participating in last month’s effort.
OTS awarded $310,000 in both Nov. 2015 and Nov. 2016 for year-long programs “of special enforcements and public awareness efforts to prevent traffic related deaths and injuries.”
The latest Escondido DUI checkpoint across the street from the police department resulted in the following stats:
- 1111 vehicles drove through the checkpoint.
- 562 vehicles were screened in primary.
- 25 vehicles were sent to secondary screening (drivers who could not produce a driver’s license or who were suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs)
- 8 total citations were issued during the checkpoint. (2 for suspended license and 5 for unlicensed driver, 1 for no insurance.)
- Educational material was distributed regarding DUI problems.
A full accounting of all Escondido police DUI checkpoint results from January 2013 through January 2017 can be found at http://escondidocheckpoints.blogspot.com.
While the latest Escondido non-DUI, DUI checkpoints merely have been targeting driver non-DUI infractions, that hasn’t always been the case.
A 2012 ACLU research study “Wrong Turn: Escondido’s Checkpoints and Impound Practices Examined” found that Escondido police had used the checkpoints from 2004-2012 to enrich city coffers through vehicle impound fees and detain and deport illegal immigrants.
Popular outcry, however, stopped the practice of using the checkpoints to harass and impede immigrants and their cars, and no such evidence of that practice has been found in the last three years, by officials accounts.
DUI checkpoints are authorized in 38 states. Checkpoints generally net relatively few drunken-driving arrests, but police and other experts say they have deterrent and educational value.
“DUI checkpoints are proven to be effective at deterring drunk drivers,” said Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “The goal is not to write tickets or make arrests but rather to remind the public that they should drive sober or face serious consequences.”
Critics of sobriety checkpoints say they are less effective than random patrols and encroach on civil liberties. Some police argue that if drivers can pinpoint the locations of DUI checkpoints, some will drink all they want, and then drive on roads that skirt the crackdowns.
Roving DUI patrols also are considered more cost effective. “Each roving patrol costs about $300, while a single sobriety checkpoint can cost between $8,000 and $10,000,” said Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute.
“States should resist enforcement measures that try to catch drunken drivers in the checkpoint traps they already know to avoid,” Longwell said. “Instead, let’s use our tax dollars and our police officers more efficiently by utilizing roving patrols.”