Why Take On This Issue in Your Community?
Disturbing The Status Quo
After assessing the youth DUI problem in your community, you still may ask, “Why disturb the status quo?” Perhaps community awareness of this problem is low. Embarking on a new enforcement program without the requisite “political permission” is certainly a risky endeavor. Even if the youth drinking and driving problem is significant, what can a police chief accomplish without community support?
Your police colleagues in the five juvenile DUI enforcement demonstration sites asked the same questions and then showed that they could make a difference. Their choice, and yours, is whether to be active or inactive. If it hasn’t happened already, one day a high-profile youth DUI crash will awaken the community to the seriousness of the problem. Instead of waiting for a tragedy to happen, you can take a stance now to prevent it. The demonstration sites made progress, and so can you. The benefits of taking an active approach are numerous:
- Saving lives
- Reducing the short- and long-term economic costs of youth DUI crashes
- Enhancing your department’s image
- Improving the quality of life in your community
- Improving community policing efforts
- Enhancing cooperation with prosecutors, judges, probation officers, and other members of the criminal justice system
- Reducing your department’s civil liability
Taking Active Steps
Many issues in the community compete for your department’s attention and resources: drugs, gangs, carjacking . . . you name it! If you decided to police according to public opinion polls, you’d probably be conducting a different crackdown every week. Events can overtake even the best strategic planners and push your department into campaigns that you, as a professional, know are unproductive. Police executives in the juvenile DUI demonstration sites took steps to get ahead of the curve.
So the choice is this: Pull the community in the right direction before you get pushed in the wrong one, or flow with the status quo.
Once you have decided to take an active position to combat the juvenile DUI problem in your community, step back and assess your department’s current enforcement approach. Is your department primarily using proactive efforts, such as keg ID, underage decoy operations, and teenage alcohol patrols, or reactive efforts, such as focusing on the arrest, processing, or rehabilitation of young DUI offenders? Modern policing has to be a combination of both proactive and reactive elements.
Identifying strategies that have worked in the demonstration sites may help your department step up its efforts. Here are some examples of what has been accomplished:
- The Colonie Police Department (within Albany County) increased its proactive efforts by putting undercover police officers in retail stores where alcohol is sold. The Cops in Shops program has been highly successful in apprehending (1) teens before they make a purchase with a false ID and (2) adults who attempt to purchase for them.
- The Phoenix Police Department’s Youth Alcohol Education and Enforcement Squad also tried the program. It made 37 arrests in just six Cops in Shops campaigns. Phoenix also employs a reactive approach by sending six specially equipped DUI enforcement vans out on patrol five nights per week. The program has drastically reduced the amount of time it takes to process DUI violations.
|“The trick is finding
the hot spots — where the
kids are going.”
|Tempe Police Officer Ben Scott