Washington Traffic Safety Commission grant funds increased DUI patrols in December
BATTLE GROUND — Law enforcement agencies across Clark County completed a period of increased DUI enforcement on Dec. 31, and the results of that campaign were recently made public.
According to a press release from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, the campaign ran from Dec. 13 to Dec. 31. Over a period of 215 hours, Clark County officers had contact with 880 drivers for a driving violation, and made 48 arrests for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The campaign was funded by the Clark County Target Zero Task Force, which received a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, according to Battle Ground police Sgt. Tim Wilson.
December’s DUI campaign incorporated elements of the Battle Ground, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver and Washougal police departments, as well as the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency and the Washington State Patrol.
Wilson said that the campaign was held on Friday and Saturday nights in December, and featured targeted DUI patrols. All participating agencies were briefed, and then a specific area for all agency representatives to patrol was designated. The goal was to “saturate” the chosen area with law enforcement, with the hope that the increased presence would have a “deterrent effect” as well as an “enforcement effect,” Wilson said.
Throughout December, the campaign targeted every area of the county except for the far north side, Wilson said. The increased DUI patrols were part of an effort to place highly visible patrols in various parts of the county.
According to information provided by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, 2017 saw decreases in both serious injuries from impaired driving as well as fatalities, as compared to 2016. Serious injuries were down approximately 58 percent, and fatalities had decreased by approximately 78 percent.
Wilson said that part of the reason for the decrease was that “in Clark County, we’ve really stepped up enforcements.” Currently, Clark County is in the third year of a three-year DUI enforcement grant, which has allowed for a sustained, year-round effort of DUI enforcement.
In addition, local law enforcement has worked with the Vancouver Police Department to create a media campaign aimed at target areas. Wilson also said that new enforcement tactics have been developed.
He said that before a DUI emphasis in an area is conducted, law enforcement officers go to all the area bars and notify patrons that there will be DUI patrols. They also give the patrons a code for a discount for an Uber ride to prevent drunk driving.
“We’re trying to prevent them from happening in the first place,” Wilson said.
Though the decrease in impaired driving related injuries and deaths are encouraging, Wilson said that a single year may not paint an accurate picture of the overall situation. “It’s a good sign,” Wilson said, but 2017 could just be a single-low year. “If it maintains that’s good news,” Wilson explained.
The funding for the increased patrols came from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, and was part of the Target Zero Task Force. Wilson said that each region in the state has a Target Zero Task Force, which consists of law enforcement representatives from that region.
The task force is completely grant funded, and uses state and federal grants to focus on specific areas of traffic law enforcement.
Wilson said that when some people see increased DUI patrols or law enforcement activity, they think it is merely a case of the agencies trying to write more tickets to gain revenue. Rather, Wilson said that campaigns like the one in December are designed to have a deterrent effect, and help reduce DUIs by encouraging correct decision making, not arrests.
Rather than simply trying to generate revenue, Wilson said that the targeted campaigns are “trying to stop a problem from happening.”