DUI task force catches few drunks

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Statistics show only 4 percent of traffic stops by the DUI Holiday Task Force result in the arrest of a suspected drunk driver. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Statistics show only 4 percent of traffic stops by the DUI Holiday Task Force result in the arrest of a suspected drunk driver. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Critics of the task force say the money spent isn't worth it due to the lower number of arrests for drunk driving. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Critics of the task force say the money spent isn't worth it due to the lower number of arrests for drunk driving. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

You know the slogan: Drive hammered. Get nailed. 

For years it's been the motto for Arizona's DUI Holiday Task Force. 

But recent numbers show the task force has arrested very few drunk drivers during this holiday season. 

Since launching the DUI patrols after Thanksgiving, the task force has made over 38,000 traffic stops. 

But only four percent (or 1,634 of traffic stops) resulted in arrests for drunk driving, according to stats released this week from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. 

Meanwhile, 40 percent (or 15,542) of the stops ended with law enforcement officers citing drivers for speeding or other violations. 

In addition, it appears more than 50 percent of those detained by police were let go with no tickets or citations. 

So far, the state has appropriated nearly $1 million in federal money to finance the drunk driving patrols. 

Most of the money is spent paying on overtime costs for the more than 8,000 police officers, deputies and troopers that take part in the annual program. 

So given the low rates of DUI arrests, some critics question if there isn't a better use of public money. 

"It's a good thing to stop DUI drivers. Nobody disagrees with that. But given the hit rate, it's a very low, tiny number of DUIs given the number of stops. This money could be better spent on perhaps solving violent crimes," said Jeff Mehrens, a Phoenix-based DUI attorney.  

Mehrens also questioned the motives behind the traffic stops.  

"It's amazing that more than 1,000 people were stopped every night over the last 30 days for some form of traffic violation and that's got to be a big revenue generator," Mehrens said. 

But the director of the Governor's office of Highway Safety, Alberto Gutier, who oversees the task force, says it's not about generating money through tickets. 

At the beginning of the interview, Gutier described the need for the task force this way: "Protect people, protect our citizens from a drunk driver who could be impaired (from) celebrating too much." 

After questioned about low DUI arrest rate, he said the task force had a much broader mission. 

"This is about protecting everybody from people driving erratically, as I said before, speeding, taking red lights, not paying attention," Gutier said.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Dennis WlechVeteran political reporter Dennis Welch is a well-respected political expert in Arizona.

Dennis Welch
Political Editor

Before making the move to television, Welch wrote and edited for the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California. Welch is a well-respected political expert in Arizona and his addition means 3TV will provide a stronger, more robust political presence in Arizona. He joins 3TV from the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California.

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