Drinkers in downtown Raleigh will soon face a greater chance of enforcement if they drive while intoxicated.
In October, the Raleigh Police Department will receive a $525,700 grant to set up a Driving While Intoxicated squad—a group of police officers intended to apprehend drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“Even though we [already] make a large number of arrests, the number of wrecks is slowly increasing,” said police Lt. Timothy Tomczak. “We wanted another tool in our toolbox to help attack this problem.”
The squad was created to curb driving after drinking, Tomczak said. Tomczak helped to develop a federal grant proposal that brought in the necessary funds and said that the squad will further decrease the number of wrecks caused by impaired drivers.
Although Durham has yet to put its own DWI squad in place, checkpoints are periodically set up around the city.
“Our officers who are patrolling the campus are attentive to driving that may indicate a driver is under the influence,” Duke Chief of Police John Dailey wrote in an email Monday. “The risk of injury or death is just too great.”
Tomczak noted any district, including a smaller one like Durham, would benefit from DWI squads. He said that Raleigh has been watching other cities that use squads and has learned from their example.
“There are benefits to be gained by any jurisdiction [implementing] DWI squads,” Tomczak said. “If it worked for other programs, it was very likely that if we instituted something similar, we would also see the benefits.”
Some students also cited the benefits of DWI squads in Durham.
“I worry about other cars on the road at 11 p.m.,” senior Amanda Young said. “Because I live off-campus, I drive a lot more past 11 p.m., and [DWI squads] would make me feel more secure.”
However, furthering this surveillance has received a reserved review from other students. Freshman Kathleen Axlerod said she would appreciate more police interference as long as it did not greatly inconvenience students.
“Not only are you endangering yourself and the other passengers in the car, but also everyone else driving, walking, biking... along the road [by drunk driving],” Axlerod said. “I would have no problem with [DWI squads], as long as it wasn’t too big of an inconvenience.”
Tomczak said the benefits of Raleigh’s DWI squad will outweigh the inconvenience. He said the checkpoints in particular will not only find intoxicated drivers but will also provide an opportunity to praise those making good choices.
“It’s not only catching the bad guys, but also reminding the people who are doing the right thing that we appreciate it and that it could be them on the side of the road, being arrested, if they had made the poor decision of drinking and driving,” he said.