Citizen Reporting of DUI- Extra Eyes to Identify Impaired Driving


This project involved both a process and an impact evaluation of Operation Extra Eyes, a program intended not only to motivate officer DUI enforcement, but also to improve community relations, thus decreasing impaired driving. Further, Extra Eyes sought to expand law enforcement surveillance capabilities and promote awareness within the community of the scope of the problems associated with the misuse of alcohol.

Program participants perceived the Extra Eyes program as beneficial as it served to motivate both law enforcement agencies and the community to focus on impaired driving issues. This is particularly important in light of events in the Montgomery County area that negatively impacted law enforcement agencies (the tragedies of 9/11 and the Washington Metropolitan sniper situation in the fall of 2002). This was the original intent of the program. Participants also indicated that the program served to bridge and enhance relationships between the local communities in Montgomery County where Extra Eyes activities were conducted and the general public (volunteers who participated). These findings are significant because lack of law enforcement officer motivation is widely reported as a barrier to effective DWI law enforcement.

Regarding the program’s impact on objective impaired driving measures (arrest statistics, alcohol-related crash trends, public awareness), our examination failed to show reduction in impaired driving activities and its consequences. As discussed below, three factors may contribute to this: (1) there was no clearly defined implementation date for the program – implementation evolved over a period of time, (2) given the geography and population of Montgomery County, the Extra Eyes program was relatively small in nature, and (3) while there was some media coverage generated as a result of local activities, there was no concerted publicity effort launched to publicize the program and its activities.

One challenge in this evaluation was that the Extra Eyes program evolved over time rather than starting cleanly as a separate new program. Certain Extra Eyes elements were derived from and also integrated into other programs, which made pinpointing specific Extra Eyes effects difficult. A principal source of information in understanding the program’s evolution derived from interviews with key senior personnel who were involved in the development and organization of Extra Eyes. For example, according to senior law enforcement officers, the Extra Eyes program has been underway since its 2002 kickoff. Some reports, however, indicate that the program was actually initiated in 2001 as part of the larger Enhanced Impaired Driving Task Force, which also included checkpoints and saturation patrols. While the 2002 date is derived from the official kickoff of Extra Eyes as an independent program, the program’s effects may have potentially begun prior to 2002 when it was still a developing program not yet separate from the task force.

Another example is that the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) members assist with paperwork and other administrative duties in conjunction with several enforcement activities, including saturation patrols, sobriety checkpoints, and underage drinking enforcement, as well as Extra Eyes. It was reported that the use of students frees the police officers from the time-intensive paperwork following each arrest and allows them to return to patrol more quickly. Because the student volunteers were integrated into several types of enforcement activities, establishing a direct relationship between student assistance and the success of the Extra Eyes program is difficult. A community implementing a program similar to Operation Extra Eyes could choose to use students with or without the Extra Eyes program. The focus of this report, however, is on the Extra Eyes
program. The SADD student program had different intentions, including helping law enforcement officers with paperwork, providing students with a positive experience, and encouraging them to share their experience with other students in their community.

Again, the time interval between initiation of the program and the beginning of data collection and evaluation “after the fact” has made an impact evaluation of the Extra Eyes program challenging. Nonetheless, some general findings are available. The participants—both the officers interviewed and the volunteers—view the Extra Eyes program as successful and even motivational because of increased arrest efficiency. Indeed, virtually all participants interviewed commented on the positive motivational aspects of the Extra Eyes program. Officer morale reportedly increased because officers felt they made more arrests on evenings when working with the Extra Eyes volunteer teams. They were being “good cops” and making the streets safer by removing drunk drivers. Community and student volunteers felt they were making a difference and supporting a good cause.

Because Extra Eyes events are relatively infrequent and conducted in specific areas of the county, they did not have a statistically measurable effect on countywide crash or arrest rates. However, in examining the number of arrests made on Extra Eyes operations in 2005 and comparing that with the number generally made by the DUI squad across the year, the Extra Eyes operation actually increased the average evening’s arrests from by about one on a typical night to up to eight per Extra Eyes night. On a typical night prior to the program, the volume of arrest was approximately little more than one per night. On Extra Eyes nights, officers averaged 2.5 arrests in 2002, 6 in 2003, and almost 8 in 2005. With respect to crash rates, it is unreasonable to expect a program with only six or seven events a year in one small area of a county to have any significant effect on an outcome as difficult to affect as alcohol-related crashes.

Efforts to publicize the Extra Eyes program were fairly limited; in fact, interview respondents indicated that coverage was not actively sought. To achieve general impaired driving deterrence, there must be a heightened public awareness of DWI enforcement efforts, which is achieved through well-publicized enforcement. There is little evidence that the Extra Eyes program contributed toward general impaired driving deterrence as measured through surveys of the driving public. Self-reports obtained through paper-and-pencil surveys at MVA offices reveal few differences between Montgomery County and comparison counties on self-reported drinking and driving and awareness of enforcement activities.

Additionally, media coverage was not directed toward the program itself, independent from the Enhanced Impaired Driving Task Force. This meant that although the police were removing intoxicated drivers from the road, they were doing so without any concerted publicity efforts. Research has demonstrated repeatedly (Shults et al., 2001) that neither enforcement nor publicity alone will reduce the number of potential offenders. The Extra Eyes program alone was identified in 23 radio and TV news stories, articles, and/or press releases, and Extra Eyes with the Enhanced Impaired Driving Task Force, from which Extra Eyes originated, was found in approximately 35 media pieces. However, Extra Eyes staff reported they did not attempt to contact media representatives for publicity purposes. Instead, the media came to them when they learned of what police were doing. MVA survey results corroborate this; very few survey respondents reported awareness of the Extra Eyes program. If the public is unaware of a program intended to deter impaired driving, then deterrence is unlikely. It is important to note, however, that all three counties are contiguous counties sharing most media outlets. Thus, it is not surprising that there is no measurable difference in the awareness of the Extra Eyes program between them.

In summary, the Extra Eyes program is small and was relatively infrequently implemented in a large and populous jurisdiction. Because of this, when Montgomery County is compared with other counties, it seems to have had little measurable effect as implemented. Both crash rates and arrest rates, despite officer reports to the contrary, remained unchanged during the enforcement effort. For a program such as this to have a general deterrent effect as measured by either self-report or crash indicators, it is necessary for a large portion of the potential impaired driving public to be aware of it. In the future, to have a greater overall impact, those implementing a program such as Extra Eyes may wish to consider orchestrating some form of public information program supportive of the program, as well as more frequent implementation of Extra Eyes nights.

Overall, the results of this retrospective evaluation are promising. Both the officers and civilian volunteers found the program useful and productive. Future efforts should consider a more frequent implementation with an emphasis on obtaining more extensive news coverage in an effort to obtain a general deterrence effect. Similar programs should also consider collecting detailed information as to arrest data for each Extra Eyes activity (e.g., type of day, time of day, other police activities occurring during an Extra Eyes event, arrest location), arrests directly related to an Extra Eyes observation reported to a law enforcement officer, and resulting convictions.