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Results lead to questions on DUI checks

Officials say despite only 3 arrests from thousands screened, checkpoints are an effective deterre

Posted: May 9, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: May 9, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Checkpoints set up to intercept drunken drivers are still worthwhile — despite only three impaired driving arrests made out of more than 3,600 motorists stopped during three recent checkpoints, local sheriff’s officials said Tuesday.

Monthly since March, deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station have selected a Friday night to conduct a traffic checkpoint on a local street “to educate the community on the hazards of drunk driving while enforcing the (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol) laws of the state of California,” Traffic Sgt. Rich Cohen said prior the latest checkpoint.

At each checkpoint, more than 1,000 motorists were stopped in an attempt to “safely remove drunk drivers from our roadways,” he said.

In March, 1,009 motorists were stopped.

The checkpoint in April involved 1,323 motorists, and the one carried out this past weekend saw 1,270 motorists stopped.

Each time, deputies arrested one person on a charge of driving under the influence.

“We know we’re inconveniencing a lot of people,” Cohen said Tuesday. “But we know for a fact that when you have DUI checkpoints, it deters drunk drivers.

“It lets them know that there is law enforcement out there and that we’re not going to stop,” he said.

Of the motorists stopped Friday night and into Saturday morning, in addition to the single arrest, deputies encountered six motorists who were unlicensed or who had their driver’s licenses suspended.

Nine other motorists were issued citations for crimes other than driving under the influence, department statistics reveal.
Capt. Paul Becker says the checkpoints are about educating the public.

“The checkpoints are more than just the law enforcement component,” he said Tuesday. “It’s for enforcement, but also for education.

“They set the tone that we do not tolerate drunk driving.”

Drunken driving remains a problem in the Santa Clarita Valley, a review of arrest statistics released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department show.

On average, the number of people charged with driving under the influence makes up between 40 and 50 percent of all arrests locally.

Of 47 arrests made locally between one selected Friday night and the following Monday morning in November, 22 were for driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.

The impaired-driving arrests were split between those made by sheriff’s deputies and by officers of the California Highway Patrol’s Newhall station.

In July, about half of all criminal suspects booked by both local law enforcement agencies were charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a survey conducted by The Signal last summer revealed.

Checkpoints will be carried out again this summer — as with every month — until motorists get the message that drunken driving will not be tolerated, Cohen said.

“It keeps coming up in newspapers and, despite that, we’re still having drunk drivers,” he said. “We have to make sure the message is getting out there.”

Funding for the checkpoints is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety.


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