Police have traditionally engaged in reactive enforcement by responding to impaired driving as patrol and traffic officers have detected it. Detecting, stopping, and arresting impaired drivers removes them from the streets, and the sanctions those offenders receive should act as a deterrent to similar occurrences in the future. Reactive enforcement strategies can be augmented by “looking beyond the ticket” for other criminal violations, reducing the amount of time a patrol officer spends processing a DUI arrest, and detecting a larger proportion of impaired drivers. Many jurisdictions have implemented programs to further those objectives. They have also found that working with the media to publicize reactive enforcement efforts is highly effective in increasing juveniles’ perception of risk and punishment. Above all, reactive enforcement is important, because that mode of response is what many departments may be able to afford.
This program enforces the premise that impaired driving, speeding, and not wearing seat belts are the common denominators that result in serious injury and death in most traffic crashes investigated by the police. Under this program, a person stopped by a law enforcement officer for any one of these violations is automatically checked for the other violations as well.
This initiative is a high-visibility public relations campaign that requires no additional resources from the police. It does require, however, a commitment from the command staff, the patrol division, and any other unit assigned to traffic or DUI enforcement. Over the next two years, NHTSA will be placing the highest priority on the Combined Alcohol/Occupant Protection Program, an enforcement-centered national program that will target impaired drivers and drivers who do not use seat belts.1
Impaired Driver Enforcement Unit (IDEU)
This program, initially funded in several locations by NHTSA, has been instrumental in reducing the time a patrol officer spends processing a DUI arrest. Since processing time appears to be an important deterrent to more DUI enforcement in many departments, this is an important initiative. Once the officer makes an initial determination that the driver is impaired, he or she requests that the specially equipped IDEU van respond to the incident location. The arresting officer then releases the suspect to the care and custody of the IDEU officers. After writing a report detailing the arrest, the patrol officer is free to resume normal patrol functions while the officers assigned to the IDEU van complete the booking process.
Phoenix, Arizona, has six such enforcement vans in service today. Police there have experienced a marked decrease in the time it takes to complete the arrest and booking process on DUI suspects. What used to take over three hours to complete now can be done in just one hour. From October through December 1996, the DUI vans made 726 arrests, saving approximately 1,557 hours of officers’ time. Although this project was not designed specifically to target juvenile DUI offenders, the IDEU vans could be used during a selective enforcement initiative targeting juveniles. This could be accomplished in part because those suspects typically are not incarcerated but released to the custody of a relative or family friend at the scene of the arrest.
Several factors affect the cost of maintaining this project. The most obvious, of course, is the cost of purchasing the vans and outfitting them with the necessary equipment. In addition, selecting, training, and retaining IDEU personnel imposes some long-term expenses. Due to the long-term financial requirements necessary to bring this project to fruition, many agencies have sought aid in the form of grants from both the state and federal government.
Report All Intoxicated Drivers (RAID)
The RAID program encourages motorists to call a toll-free number to report suspected intoxicated drivers. Dispatchers who receive such calls dispatch the nearest unit from any agency. In Hampton, Virginia, a public education campaign comprises an important part of this program, and can be targeted to individual citizens, community organizations, and neighborhood watch groups.
Alcohol-impaired drivers can be very difficult to detect, especially at lower blood-alcohol content (BAC) levels. It is not possible for law enforcement officials to apprehend more than a minority of DUI drivers on any given night. Often, impaired drivers are not identified until it is too late. Sobriety checkpoints are an example of how law enforcement agencies can actively seek out drivers above a particular state’s legal BAC level. The checkpoints can be especially effective as a deterrent for teens, because many states have established lower BAC thresholds for youths than for adults. Sobriety checkpoints typically result in low arrest rates, however, and police officers disagree about their effectiveness. Nevertheless, they can be highly effective as part of a proactive information campaign or “media blitz” with newspaper stories, television and radio advertisements, and press conferences all warning the public about the hazards and consequences of impaired driving. They should be sustained, highly visible, and publicized to ensure that reductions in crashes are lasting.
Sobriety checkpoints were employed as part of reactive enforcement programs in several of the demonstration sites. In 1994, Hampton conducted 13 sobriety checkpoints, resulting in 23 arrests, including one of a 16-year-old female with a BAC above .30. The checkpoints are generally conducted in four-hour blocks, and in 1994 each checkpoint processed an average of 400 vehicles.
Cabs On Patrol (COP)
This program exemplifies the partnership that can be forged between the police department and the private sector. Taxi drivers are instructed to report suspected impaired drivers to their company dispatcher immediately. The dispatcher in turn notifies the police department, which attempts to intercept the vehicle. Each cab participating in the COP program displays an emblem that reminds the public of the program’s existence.
This low-cost, high-visibility program is a very attractive public information tool, highlighting the partnership between the private and public sectors. With varying degrees of success, some jurisdictions have expanded this concept to other private sector companies, such as utilities and mass transit systems.
The Ames (Iowa) Police Department administers the bar patrol program. The patrol consists of four full-time officers and a sergeant who are on the street in and near the bars four nights a week, making arrests for underage drinking every weekend. Most of the arrests are for violations of the laws forbidding minors on premises or minors in possession of alcohol. The patrols may also use underage decoys for periodic buy-bust operations to apprehend sellers of alcoholic beverages who do not ask for proof of age.
Appreciating the value of public information and education, the four special operations officers assigned to the bar patrol implement educational programs in schools and make presentations to civic groups. The Ames Police Department hopes that, over time, these presentations will reduce the number of minors being arrested during bar patrol operations.
Proactive Law Enforcement
The goal of proactive law enforcement is to prevent or suppress juvenile drinking and driving before it takes place. Unfortunately, many juveniles are able to walk into a convenience store or a bar and purchase alcohol or are successful in having adults buy alcohol for them. The impaired driving that results should come as no surprise. By working with local alcohol retailers, police can send a message of “zero tolerance” and help reduce juveniles’ access to alcohol. Specific proactive enforcement campaigns are often successful in deterring juveniles, retailers, and other adults from breaking the law in the first place, thereby restricting the amount of alcohol available to juveniles.
This initiative, instituted in Marlborough, Massachusetts, has served as a model for other communities. The local ordinance requires all sellers of beer to place an identification band around each keg of beer sold. At the point and time of purchase, the seller secures positive identification from the buyer and keeps a record of the sale. If the keg shows up at a party where underage drinkers are served, the buyer can be held legally responsible.
Historically, this enforcement effort has not resulted in many arrests. However, the publicity generated by those arrested, in addition to the public awareness campaign that must accompany such a program, has significantly reduced the problem in communities where it is enforced. This program allows law enforcement to be proactive, limiting juveniles’ access to alcohol.
Obviously, for this program to be effective, a state law or local ordinance must make the actions of the buyer illegal. Additionally, the police must be committed to placing charges in all cases where probable cause exists. The local prosecutor must also aggressively prosecute each violation.
Underage Decoy Operations
Underage decoy operations are an immediate, successful, but highly controversial initiative in which police departments send an underage person—either a training cadet or a trained civilian—into a convenience store or bar to attempt to buy alcohol. The establishment could be one that is known to cater to minors; at other times, locations are selected on a random basis. Because some members of the court and enforcement system believe that these sting operations constitute entrapment and thus are illegal, many jurisdictions have eliminated the use of stings and have opted to conduct expensive and often lengthy surveillance operations outside the businesses. In the latter cases, after the sale is completed, the police are able to arrest not only the seller but also the minor for being in possession of alcohol.
Law enforcement agencies that mount such initiatives should not expect a large number of arrests. However, as in other programs, the arrests that are made focus the public’s attention on the problem and send a warning that this type of irresponsible behavior will not be tolerated. Although decoy operations are controversial, many feel they send the strongest message of “zero tolerance” to alcohol sale establishments and the public. The true purpose of the operations is not to arrest violators, but to deter businesses from breaking the law in the first place.
Badges in Business/Cops in Shops
In these programs, sometimes referred to as point-of-purchase (POP) operations, convenience and retail stores cooperate with the police by permitting undercover officers to pose as employees. Each business affixes a sticker to its door, warning that there may be an undercover officer on the premises. The officers apprehend minors attempting to purchase alcohol with no identification (ID), a false ID, or an altered ID. As part of the initiative, liquor control officers often provide educational presentations to employees of licensees on how to protect themselves by detecting false IDs. In third-party sales, a variation on this type of sting, underage youths approach the undercover officer and ask him or her to buy alcohol. These programs are not designed to generate a large number of arrests, but rather to raise public awareness of the problem and prevent minors from attempting to purchase alcohol in the first place. The initiatives have an advantage over other sting operations because they target the purchaser rather than the seller. In addition, they give the police department an opportunity to work cooperatively with the business community to combat the manufacture, sale, and use of false IDs.
Cops in Shops programs were undertaken in both Albany County and Phoenix. These initiatives have been successful—as measured by increased arrests— in apprehending both teens before they purchase alcohol and adults who attempt to purchase for them.
Saturation patrols are cooperative enforcement activities targeting high-volume areas. In addition to detecting impaired drivers, they increase the perception of risk by enhancing the public’s expectation that those who drink and drive are likely to encounter a police officer and suffer the consequences of a legal sanction. Due to their collaborative nature, saturation patrols often require several months of planning among agencies. However, they demonstrate the powerful enforcement capabilities of combining several strengths to attack the juvenile DUI problem, and they present an excellent opportunity for press conferences and other media contacts.
In Albany County, driving while intoxicated (DWI) blanket patrol “stings” are a joint effort that allow all participating law enforcement agencies to maximize their resources and coverage for DWI enforcement during a specific period. Some blanket patrols target all drivers, while others focus on underage drivers during such times as holidays, prom and graduation season, and the return of college students. Since 1989, Albany County has conducted announced, county-wide patrols to intercept impaired drivers on weekend nights. All 11 municipal agencies, the sheriff’s department, capitol police, State University of New York (SUNY) Albany Police, and the New York State Police participate in these patrols.
For a complete guide on establishing saturation patrols, write or call for the following publication: Saturation Patrols Targeting Impaired Driving: Guidelines for Community-Based Alcohol Enforcement Programs, available from NHTSA, Traffic Law Enforcement Division, Room 5118, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590. The phone number is (202) 366-4300.
Modeled after the Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID) program, this project uses comprehensive corridor patrols to target areas with high juvenile substance abuse and related problems. In 1995, the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Kid Rid grant funded enhanced police presence in areas where juveniles congregate and use drugs or alcohol and also provided overtime funds for street officers and undercover officers to conduct buy-busts at stores suspected of selling alcohol to minors. The educational component of the program had police working with the Community Service Council to develop anti-DUI materials. The same officers attended area high schools to discuss the perils of drug use and drinking and driving.
Teenage Alcohol Patrols
The New Castle County (Delaware) Police Department designed this program to ensure that trained officers remain available at the times and places where underage drinking is most likely to occur. The additional patrols are scheduled for 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Tuesday through Thursday, with added resources available during the peak periods of Friday and Saturday evenings. One objective of this program is to ensure that underage persons do not scatter when police arrive and continue to consume alcohol elsewhere. Even if some youths do scatter, officers are stationed where their vehicles are parked, preventing them from driving.
Regular patrols benefit from this enforcement initiative because the officers are able to hand off large parties to the specialized teen patrol. Working in pairs enables the teen patrol units to provide a more concentrated police response to the affected area. This program relieves single-officer patrol units from handling such complaints but allows them to respond as backup units when necessary. During a recent five-month period, the program resulted in 667 arrests, primarily of minors for consumption of alcohol. Nearly half of the arrests involved young persons attending parties where alcohol was present.
1 NHTSA has upgraded its alcohol and seat belt programs. Those programs were also the subjects of major initiatives in fiscal year 1998.