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Sentinel staff report–
Latest arrest data released by the Citrus Heights Police Department shows a total of 188 DUI arrests were made from Jan. 1 through July 31 this year, up from 120 during the same period last year — an increase of 56 percent.
Asked what factors police attribute the significant increase in arrests to, Citrus Heights Police Lt. Kristopher Frey said he doesn’t believe it’s necessarily an indication of more drunk drivers on the roadway.
“I would attribute a lot of the increase to we’re training a lot more of our officers than in the past,” said Frey, who oversees the department’s patrol services division. He also said the department has made a greater focus on DUI and has assigned an officer in the traffic unit to focus on DUI, especially during evening hours when he said driving under the influence is statistically more likely to occur.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean more people are driving drunk, it’s showing that the training is definitely helping out and keeping the streets safer,” said Frey, noting there has only been a slight uptick in DUI-related collisions.
Police data show a total of 47 collisions in the city were attributed to being DUI-related, through July 31, 2019. During the same period last year, that number was 40.
Lt. Jason Baldwin, who oversees the department’s reserve officer and field training unit, also credited the department’s focus on training as a key factor for the increase in arrests. He said it has been his goal “to get every single cop trained in DUI,” whereas in the past that wasn’t the case.
Baldwin said he believes the fruits of that training effort, which began about two-and-a-half years ago, are finally being realized this year. “Honestly, a lot of these DUI arrests are coming out of patrol, not necessarily whiz-bang new things we are doing (this year),” he said.
While in reserves, Baldwin said new officers are now going through DUI training, “so we have rookie cops out there that are really highly trained that are doing a lot of good for the city.”
DUI training includes getting officers into standard field sobriety test school and other drug recognition schools, Baldwin said. Drug impairment in particular has been a rising concern on the roadways, which police say is also more difficult to detect and requires additional officer training.
Police also credit their partnership with the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) for helping nab more intoxicated drivers. Each year, OTS has provided grant money to the department — often amounting to over $100,000 annually — to provide for traffic safety and enforcement, which also funds the department’s DUI and drivers license checkpoints.
The percentage of arrests coming from the police department’s regular DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols was not immediately available, but Lt. Frey said OTS grant money has helped put “a lot more officers on the streets” during DUI operations.
Statewide DUI arrest data for comparison is not available for 2019, as the latest year statistics are available from OTS and the California Department of Motor Vehicles is 2015. The DMV’s latest annual report, released last October, showed a steady decline in DUI arrests from 2010 to 2015, with arrests dropping 28 percent during that five-year period.
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