Citizen Reporting of DUI- Extra Eyes to Identify Impaired Driving
To determine the extent of media coverage of the Extra Eyes program, we used a number of sources, including:
We then asked Montgomery County Police to review the compiled media coverage list and provide any additional sources. Assisting in the collection efforts were Officer William Morrison of the Montgomery County Police Department (creator and lead coordinator of the Extra Eyes program) and Margo Stanton of the Montgomery County Highway Safety Office (lead volunteer), who shared with us their documentation of efforts to publicize the Extra Eyes program.
We conducted a multiyear (from implementation of the Extra Eyes program in November 2002 through October 2005) Lexis-Nexis search to identify media coverage of Extra Eyes and other citizen reporting programs in Montgomery County and the comparison counties. Search terms on Lexis-Nexis to identify media coverage of the Extra Eyes program included “Extra Eyes,” “Citizen Reporting Program,” “ DUI,” and “DWI.”
The Washington Post ran an article in December of 2000 calling the Extra Eyes program “extremely uncommon” and “innovative,” but also questioned whether community volunteers should be following people. The story featured a volunteer who jumped out of his vehicle when an officer confronted a disorderly man and quoted the volunteer, reporting that he had “definitely” seen a drug transaction, which turned out to be a man bumming money from people going in or out of a liquor store. The article posed the question: if a citizen’s action resembled vigilante behavior, would Montgomery County be legally responsible? The story was picked up by the Associated Press and attracted some attention elsewhere.
We conducted a general Internet search (including the Montgomery County, Maryland, Web site www.montgomerycountymd.gov/) for any media coverage given to the Extra Eyes program.
Three Web sites provided links to The Washington Post article and allowed users to post comments. The Web sites had titles such as Conspiracy General (None dare call it a conspiracy… except us!); ModernDrunkardMagazine.com (a forum for modern drunkards everywhere); and PTS: politics.abovetopsecret.com (“for inspired debate and discussion about the important political issues of our era”), and carried anti-MADD and anti-Extra Eyes posts.
Another called Extra Eyes a “snitch program.” “John Q Citizens ride around in their busybody mobiles and look out for people who they can rat on. They busted… some guys for walking around with a beer or two. I think they said something about snitching on liquor stores. Keeping the kids safe, you know.”
We obtained the presentation used by Montgomery County Police at talks and seminars when discussing the Extra Eyes project (Appendix E). These conferences are listed in Table 28. The presentation contains a brief history of the Enhanced Impaired Driving Task Force and of Extra Eyes, cooperating agencies and groups, enforcement results, and contact information. It should be noted that Lt. Falcinelli and Officer Morrison, the original founders of the Extra Eyes program, received an Outstanding Law Enforcement Award at the 2003 MADD national conference for this program.
Interviews conducted with law enforcement officers, media representatives, and community volunteers included questions regarding media activities in support of the Extra Eyes program.
Informants reported that, in the beginning, the Extra Eyes program was announced in a press release, but since then, the media coverage has neither been sought nor avoided. Interestingly, it was one officer’s opinion that the less publicity the better because in some cases media coverage hindered successful apprehension of violators.
Most officers and volunteers reported that, initially, it was difficult to get media coverage for the Extra Eyes program because events such as the 2002 sniper conflict were more pressing media events. Officers mentioned The Washington Post article that focused on citizen involvement as a potential liability issue; officers felt the article was very negative and undeserved.
However, other media, such as The Gazette in Montgomery County, reacted to The Washington Post article by launching its own investigation of the program. Consequently, the Gazette ran a very positive article on Extra Eyes, and all subsequent coverage by the press has been positive.
Recently, positive media coverage of Extra Eyes has increased, as evidenced in Table 27. Officers believe that involvement of SADD teenagers in Extra Eyes helps program visibility because the media loves to report on kids. In addition, media representatives have requested ride-alongs, either with officers in patrol cars or with community volunteers engaged in Extra Eyes activities. To accommodate such requests, officers have organized nights for media to participate. The resulting stories have been, according to one officer, “good and positive for the most part.” One officer commented that the CNN crew rode in his minivan for 7 hours in June 2005, and the result was a positive 5-minute national story on Extra Eyes.
The CNN team and its editors learned of Extra Eyes through a MADD press release announcing an award being given to the Extra Eyes program. CNN followed up on the press release and found Extra Eyes to be a well-run, cooperative team involving citizens in police enforcement efforts. Because feedback on the program was very positive, the CNN producer deemed Extra Eyes newsworthy and ran a 5-minute national story. “It’s just so different than any other program,” said a CNN correspondent. “It seems so effective and would be more so if it spreads to other communities.”
Community volunteers believe that the media coverage should be increased. One volunteer said, “Extra Eyes does not have as much media coverage as it should be getting. It has not been one of the more highly publicized events. Things like checkpoints get more publicity, and educational programs do too.”
MVA Survey and Patrol Officer Survey
In addition to the searches and interviews, the MVA survey of driver’s license applicants and our survey of patrol officers included items pertaining to media. The MVA survey included two extra items: One asked about recent media coverage (e.g., print, television, and radio) on impaired driving enforcement and another asked about recognition of the Extra Eyes program. As previously noted, only 1.5 percent of respondents reported awareness of the name Extra Eyes as an impaired driving enforcement program. Nine percent were aware that there was a program where citizens could report suspected drunk drivers.
Items included on the patrol officer survey asked how often they had heard of Extra Eyes via the media (print, radio, TV) and whether or not the coverage was positive or negative. Approximately 54 percent of the officers reported they had seen coverage “a few times.” When asked whether the coverage was positive or negative, 56 percent reported positive and 44 percent indicated they “did not know.”
We tallied the media coverage from the inception of the program (November 2002) to the month data analysis was completed (October 2005), by year and month. We examined the type of coverage received (positive or negative), as well as the relevance of the coverage (e.g., editorial, specific coverage on the program, reference to the program within a DUI/DWI piece). Table 29 shows the number of press releases, articles, and TV/radio pieces Extra Eyes alone, for the Enhanced Impaired Driving Task Force alone, and for the two combined.
The Media Services Division of the Montgomery County Police issues press releases announcing activities (e.g., Enhanced Impaired Driving Task Force, saturation patrols, Extra Eyes). The division issued press releases specific to Extra Eyes in 2003 and about the Enhanced Impaired Driving Task Force in 2002. There were no press releases in 2004 or 2005. The greatest coverage specifically related to Extra Eyes and Extra Eyes combined with the Enhanced Impaired Driving Task Force occurred in 2003. Very little coverage was found for 2002, the year of the Extra Eyes program kickoff, but that is understandable because the formal program was introduced late in the year (November). Most coverage of the program occurred via print.
In summary, though the Extra Eyes program might be considered newsworthy because of its combination of citizens and police, it did not generate extensive media coverage during the study period. This may well be because there was not a concerted effort to generate media coverage through repeated press releases or other outreach activities.