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Archive for Thursday, January 23, 1992

DRUNKEN-DRIVING ARRESTS INCREASE BY 52% IN 1991

January 23, 1992

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The additional police officers served up courtesy of Lawrence voters has resulted in a significant increase in the number of arrests for drunken driving, a Lawrence police lieutenant says.

Lt. Mike Reeves said that in 1991, Lawrence police arrested 555 drivers for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OUI). Officers made 365 OUI arrests in 1990.

Reeves attributed the 52 percent increase to the addition of 27 police officer positions, most of which have been filled. Lawrence voters in 1990 approved a half-cent sales tax increase to finance the extra positions.

The addition changes the scope of enforcement, Reeves said, because having more officers on the street helps keep more people within the boundaries of the law.

"With the new officers on the street we've been able to run more . . . drivers (license) check lanes," and more closely monitor motorists, he said.

Reeves said the statistical information does not indicate drunken driving is on the increase.

"WHAT THEY (statistics) will tell you is that there's a larger number of people getting caught," he said.

But the growing number of drunken-driving arrests is not unique to the city. Douglas County sheriff's officers and Kansas University police also made more OUI arrests in 1991 than in the previous year.

Sheriff's officers arrested 85 people for driving while intoxicated in 1990. Last year, the number climbed to 100. The totals include arrests made by sheriff's officers and by Baldwin and Eudora police.

Sheriff Loren Anderson said population growth in the county may be behind the 17.6 percent increase in drunken-driving arrests.

The sheriff said he could not conclude from arrest statistics that drunken-driving incidents have increased.

"I don't think we're experiencing a great rise of drunken drivers. The public awareness has been to our advantage," he said.

ANDERSON said public awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving has helped officers locate drunken motorists. He said the sheriff's office has taken calls from several county residents who have seen drunken drivers.

KU statistics show that drunken-driving arrests in 1991 increased 213 percent over 1990. According to reports, 15 people were arrested on drunken-driving charges in 1990, and 47 were arrested in 1991.

KU police Lt. John Mullens said the increase of drunken-driving arrests by KU officers simply reflects a change in the department's work schedule that began in 1990.

Mullens said KU officers switched from five eight-hour workdays to four 10-hour days, which created an overlap between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. prime hours for drunken driving.

WITH THE switch, the KU police workforce doubled during the four-hour period.

"Most staff, students and faculty will avoid the Hill if they've been drinking at all," Mullens said.

Officials could not point to a specific area of the county, city or campus where officers stop a large number of drunken drivers. However, they said, the majority of arrests are made during the late evening or early morning hours on weekends.

Mullens and Reeves said they don't expect another large increase in OUI arrests during 1992.

"I don't expect anything drastic up or down in the numbers of drunken driving (arrests)," Mullens said.

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