Saturday, June 22, 2013

Are DUI Checkpoints Effective? Or Intrusive and Unconstitutional?

I understand the concept of DUI Checkpoints. There are times when people drink up too much and get behind the wheel, and sometimes bad things happen. I know that it's dangerous, and it's all been discussed before. 

Drunk driving is bad. I get that. 

I was a reporter for radio and print in my past, I've covered my share of deadly and non-deadly crashes, read too many police reports while typing up the police blotter, and been present at a checkpoint before, and been stuck in a checkpoint, too, so I can see this from all sides. I get it. Drunk driving is a problem.

But I don't think it's as big a problem as our state and local law enforcement make it out to be. Based on the numbers, it's more of a harassment and a witch hunt that hinders far more people than it helps and impacts the bottom line of far more bars, restaurants, bands and other entertainment events than they generate in fines for city/county/state. 

One bar owner I talked to said the checkpoints hurt his bar "Big time." And with little result on arrest report, sadly. 

DUI Checkpoints have ridiculously minuscule rates of DUI arrests

That's what bugs me.

Even a small checkpoint has, at minimum, a dozen officers and just as many cars, from multiple departments, who've had three times as many hours in logistical work as are spent on the actual checkpoint. And that's expensive. I know they're "working overtime" and "paid by grants" ... but that argument is asinine. 

Governments get money from one source: Taxes. 

Taxes that we, as citizens and business, pay. So saying it's a grant doesn't matter. Saying it's regular time, extra time or overtime doesn't hold water, either. All we're doing is overtaxing the officers with extra work that's going to catch up to them eventually during their regular work, when they're supposed to be protecting and serving. And in this day of reduced budgets, where every department is fighting for money, and tax bases and revenues are shrinking, the investment isn't worth the return.

Because DUI Checkpoints return minimal results:

An OVI checkpoint in Austintown, Ohio, on June 15, 2013, had 588 cars pass through. There were two DUI arrests and six other citations issued. That's a 0.34 rate of return on DUI, and a 1.36% arrest rate for ALL charges. That's just not smart use of tax dollars, if you ask me. And a huge inconvenience to the 582 other cars that were unreasonably stopped and searched without probable cause (more on that, later). (Source

Also on June 15th, there was a DUI checkpoint in Franklin County, north of Columbus, which was conducted by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Hilliard and Dublin police departments. In 2009, Franklin County ranked first in DUI arrests in Ohio, so you'd think a bigger city, bigger area, bigger checkpoint and that history would give significantly greater odds, right? 

Wrong.

In a six-hour period, a total of 814 cars went through the checkpoint. There were 332 cars that were checked, 39 that were diverted for issues.

A whopping four people were arrested for DUI. (Source

Four.

That's a 0.49140049140049 percentage for DUI arrests.

There were 14 people cited for driving without a license. So it seems to me that it would make more sense to do a "Driver's Licence Checkpoint" than a DUI Checkpoint. And yes, they do those, too, but it seems to be only during the day. Which tends to target people trying to get shit done during the day, and hoping they can do it in their lunch hour, only to get stuck in a checkpoint and the "LET ME ZEE YOUR PAPERS!" 

On March 17, 2013 -- St. Patrick's Day ... the day everyone in Youngstown is Irish and drinks -- a checkpoint was set up on Market Street near Breaden Street. The results: 564 cars went through the checkpoint, 19 were diverted, three OVI arrests, one warrant arrest. That's a whopping 0.53% rate of return. 

Said one officer, “We were surprised; we didn't have as many cars go through and didn't have as many arrests or citations as we would have thought," said Scott Weamer, assistant chief of the Canfield Police Department and member of the task force. (Source

If you can't catch people driving drunk on a drinking holiday, there might be something inherently wrong with your focus.

I don't believe it's because we can find out on our smart phones via apps or online where the checkpoints are. A DUI Checkpoint held Friday, March 23, 2001, had one DUI arrest. And 24 other arrests for various traffic offenses and outstanding warrants (it is Youngstown, after all.) The story doesn't list the number of cars through the checkpoint, however, but one DUI arrest? For all that work? It's a huge waste of time and tax dollars. (Source

From 2001 through 2003, the Ohio State Highway Patrol staffed 96 checkpoints that averaged 5.18 DUI arrests. Of the 75,930 drivers stopped, fewer than 1 percent were arrested for drunken driving, according to a review of checkpoint statistics The Columbus Dispatch published in 2004.

And it's borderline 4th Amendment stuff. 

For those of you not hip to the Constitution ... here's the text of the 4th Amendment, which is part of The Bill Of Rights:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Texas says that the 4th Amendment protects its citizens from DUI Checkpoints. Four other states have determined checkpoints are against the individual state Constitutions. Seven other states also don't have DUI Checkpoints.  So, I ask on both the DUI Checkpoints and the Driver's Licence Checkpoints, where is the probable cause? Simply driving? (Source

In Ohio, one of the criteria to allow checkpoints is history of DUI arrests in a certain area. It's based on history, because it's surely not results driven. If you did anything that resulted in a 0.5% success rate, you'd stop. If you'd focus those officers on additional patrols those nights, and hit broader locations, and I'm sure you'll get more than two DUI arrests. And spend a whole lot less money.

And that's from a county sheriff: 

Erie County Sheriff Terry M. Lyons, who served on the task force, said officers who patrol for DUI enforcement produce more arrests. One checkpoint per year is staffed by 10 to 20 officers in the northern Ohio county, and Lyons said officers usually make no more than six arrests. "If you take that amount of officers for six hours and put them on patrol doing strictly DUI enforcement, you'll more than likely have better results," he said. (Source

 Maybe it's time for checkpoints to check out. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

2013-06-15 - Simply Slavic Festival in Youngstown

Saturday, June 15, 2013, is the Simply Slavic Heritage Festival 2013 in Downtown Youngstown on Federal Plaza East between Market Street and Walnut Street. Gates are open from Noon until Midnight, and admission is only $3, children 12 and under are free! 

I was there in 2011 and enjoyed the great ethnic beer they had in the Slavic Beer Garden, including these fine products:  



This year there will be several great European beers, including Zlatý Bažant beer from Slovakia, Karlovačko beer from Croatia, Zywiec beer from Poland; Obolon beer from Ukraine, Nikšičko beer from Montenegro and Laker Lager from Canada. Not a Slavic beer, but similar to the lighter American beers which some people prefer. They also had the traditional domestic beers available for those who aren't as curious to try some new beer.

On the spirit side, there will be Šljivovica plum brandy from Balkan, Kruškovac pear brandy, Sobieski Vodka from Poland, and don't forget, you can request a topper of Kruškovac on the Šljivovica shot to create a 'Juliška'! There will also be an assortment of Slavic wines available. (Sorry, was informed there will be no wine at the festival this year.)

And the food? Forget it ... amazing stuff. Probably my favorite food festival in Youngstown, hands down!

For more information, click here for their website or follow them on Facebook, and head downtown Saturday for great food, beer, music and baked goods featuring the unique heritage of Eastern Europe: Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. 

-- Eric