Citizen Reporting of DUI- Extra Eyes to Identify Impaired Driving
This report summarizes the results of an evaluation of Montgomery County, Maryland’s enhanced driving under the influence (DUI) citizen reporting program, Operation Extra Eyes. This study, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is part of a possible two-phase project; the results of the first phase are presented here. This Phase 1 report documents the history and operational activities of the Extra Eyes program, assesses its potential effect on impaired driving, and recommends possible approaches for Phase 2.
The Extra Eyes program was initially developed as part of Montgomery County’s Enhanced Impaired Driving Task Force. The program was designed to offer an efficient method for energizing DUI enforcement in departments suffering from officer burn-out and allow trained citizens to work hand-in-hand with law enforcement to build a citizen-officer bond and create a safer community. Though components of the program were extant in 2001, the formal kickoff for the Extra Eyes program was in the fall of 2002. Under this program, a select group of volunteer citizens with special training join officers to locate impaired drivers. Additionally, student volunteers support these enforcement efforts by providing assistance to officers with processing paperwork.
On a typical Extra Eyes evening, teams of community volunteers meet with officers at the station for a briefing. The volunteers are equipped with binoculars and police radios, and are deployed in their unmarked civilian cars to predetermined locations within the jurisdiction, typically parking in lots situated near drinking establishments. When the volunteers sight an impaired individual, they radio the location, the cues witnessed, and a description of the individual and vehicle to an officer, who then observes the suspected offender, establishes probable cause, and makes the arrest (if appropriate). After the arrest, a student volunteer (either as a ride-along in a marked vehicle or at the police station) can assist with the extensive paperwork necessary to complete an arrest.
Although the concept of citizen reporting of impaired driving has been in place in the United States for several decades, it has not been carefully evaluated. In this study, we interviewed key participants to thoroughly understand the program’s history, operation, and perceived value. Additionally, we surveyed Montgomery County Patrol Officers—both those who participated in the program and those who did not. They shared their experiences and assessments of the program’s usefulness. Data on DUI arrests, alcohol-related crashes, media coverage, and awareness information were collected from Montgomery County and then compared with similar data collected from nearby Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties where the Extra Eyes program did not exist.
Interviews with Key Informants
Over a three-month period, we conducted 26 interviews. Key informants included Montgomery County senior law enforcement officers and patrol officers, community and student volunteers, prosecutors, and media representatives. The program’s designers provided background information on the program’s development and operations. All informants agreed that their overall experiences with the Extra Eyes program were positive. Virtually all interviewees—the police officers and the community relations staff and volunteers—commented on the project’s positive motivational aspects. Of particular interest were prosecutors’ impressions of the Extra Eyes program. They felt that community volunteer involvement led to more impaired driving arrests and was of value to the overall law enforcement effort because “officers love it.” This finding of program success was aligned with the original aims of the program, building better community relations and motivating officer participation in DUI enforcement.
Patrol Officer Survey
Thirty-three officers from the Montgomery County Police Department completed surveys. Of these, 63 percent were involved in the Extra Eyes program, and of those, more than half had participated in Extra Eyes activities more than five times. Of those who participated, 91 percent reported arrests or issued citations that were attributable to the Extra Eyes program.
Data on the number of DUI arrests in each county before and after implementation of the program were examined to determine if the number of impaired driving arrests increased or decreased and whether the Extra Eyes program actually influenced the increase or decrease. Overall alcohol-related arrests in the three counties declined from 2000 to 2003. In Montgomery County there was a 15 percent decrease from 2000 to 2001, no change from 2001 to 2002, and a 9 percent decrease from 2002 to 2003. However, when compared to the other two counties, the decrease in the number of alcohol-related arrests in Montgomery County could not be attributed to the Extra Eyes program.
Over a four-year period (2002-2005), there were 25 Extra Eyes activities, with an average of 6 per year. On every Extra Eyes evening but one where activities took place and arrest data were available, at least one DUI offender was arrested during Extra Eyes operations. On a typical night, the volume of arrests equates to approximately a little more than one arrest per night. On Extra Eyes nights, officers averaged 2.5 arrests in 2002, 6 in 2003, and almost 8 in 2005.
The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) provided statewide alcohol-related crash data. We analyzed these data by county for the years 2000 through 2005. Results indicated no significant changes in the ratio of alcohol-related crashes to all crashes in Montgomery County relative to Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties following the introduction of the Extra Eyes program in Montgomery County. It is important to note, however, that the Extra Eyes operations occurred only 5 to 8 times a year in concentrated neighborhoods as opposed to the overall county. Thus, one would not expect crash rates for the entire county to be measurably affected by a program of this size and nature.
Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) staff conducted almost 700 surveys of driver license applicants in their offices in all three counties in November 2005. Four questions on the survey pertained to knowledge of Extra Eyes or citizen’s reporting programs. Although no statistically significant differences were found between the counties regarding reported drinking and driving, Montgomery County survey participants believed that enforcement was greater now than three years ago.
We conducted a multiyear Lexis-Nexis search to identify media coverage of Extra Eyes and other citizen reporting programs in Montgomery County and the comparison counties. Additionally, we documented the efforts to publicize the Extra Eyes program in Montgomery County. The Extra Eyes program alone was identified in 23 radio and TV articles and/or press releases, and the Extra Eyes program with the Enhanced Impaired Driving Task Force, from which Extra Eyes originated, was found in approximately 35 media pieces.
Our study found that the Extra Eyes program is perceived by the program participants as beneficial because it served to motivate and intensify enforcement productivity. This was the original intent of the program in response to officer burn-out subsequent to the tragedies of 9/11 and the Washington Metropolitan sniper occurrence in the fall of 2002. Interview participants also indicated that the program served to bridge relationships between the general public (volunteers who participated) and the officers.
An examination of objectively measured data (such as general public awareness and survey data, arrest statistics, and alcohol-related crash trends) failed to show reductions in impaired driving activity and its consequences. Hypothetically, this may be caused by three elements: (1) the program was in partial implementation before its formal kickoff and thus a clear-cut initiation point was absent, (2) the program was relatively small compared to the geographical and population size of Montgomery County, and (3) there was no concerted publicity effort launched to enhance the deterrence potential of the enforcement program.