Increased DUI Patrols Set For Tonight


Via:  TimesDispatch.com

By Mark Bowes

Published: December 31, 2009

Richmond police will have 100 additional officers on the street, and DUI patrols will rove Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover counties as authorities gear up to combat drunken driving and other holiday mischief tonight and early tomorrow.

And the law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen is offering free taxi rides to people in the Richmond area who feel they can’t make it home safely.

Richmond police will more than double their presence on city streets tonight as officers and detectives normally assigned to narcotics, schools, personnel and other squads will join precinct patrol officers in keeping holiday revelry in check. They will be looking for drunken drivers, responding to random-gunfire calls and dealing with disruptive revelers.

“They have specific assignments based on crime-analysis data that we have from previous years [involving] random gunfire and incidents on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day,” said Richmond police Maj. Margaret Horn. “Each precinct has come up with an operations plan for their area. We want to . . . have enough police presence to make sure everybody has a safe and fun evening.”

No DUI checkpoints are planned for the city, but roving DUI patrols and the department’s traffic unit “will be in strategic places looking for intoxicated drivers,” Horn said. The Fan District, Shockoe Bottom and the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor are among the areas being targeted.

The enhanced enforcement effort will begin at 9 p.m. and end at 3 a.m.

Authorities in Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover, along with Virginia State Police, will use roving DUI “saturation” patrols. Neither Chesterfield nor Henrico plans to set up sobriety checkpoints, but Hanover may establish one tomorrow night into Saturday, weather permitting.

“We have found that we are more successful in this department in using just roving DUI patrols,” said Chesterfield police Capt. Kevin Smith. “We have numerous officers that we have selected because of their skill in that area — just driving around and finding drunk drivers.”

Last year, Chesterfield police arrested 11 people on charges of driving under the influence between 3 p.m. New Year’s Eve and 8 a.m. New Year’s Day, Smith said.

The department has excelled in recent years in catching drunken drivers. Officers arrested 1,234 people in 2008, a 50 percent increase from the previous year. The department had 1,240 DUI arrests this year as of Wednesday, Smith said.

Tonight, at least a half-dozen roving patrols will concentrate mainly on major county thoroughfares, “but I can’t promise you they won’t sneak up on somebody on a back road,” Smith said. “They are literally going to be all over the county.”

Henrico police will dedicate at least 10 additional officers from its traffic-safety unit to look for impaired drivers. They will be out from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., Henrico police Sgt. A.J. Gordon said.

“Studies have shown that saturation patrols are actually better [than sobriety checkpoints] in taking drunk drivers off the street,” Gordon said. The department made 11 DUI arrests between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in 2008.

The Hanover Sheriff’s Office, which arrested three people on DUI charges last New Year’s, will also have extra officers on the streets.

“We will have saturation patrols and some additional resources, including some reserve officers, to supplement our regular patrol staff,” Hanover sheriff’s Capt. Michael Trice said.

Adding to the mix will be extra state troopers who will conduct saturation patrols in and around the Richmond region. Sobriety checkpoints also are possible but contingent on the weather, state police Sgt. Thomas Molnar said.

“If anybody wants to report a drunk driver, they can always call #77,” Molnar said. “That goes to the state police dispatch center.”

The Allen & Allen law firm is offering an incentive to not drink and drive: a free taxi ride.

“We are offering free rides in the Richmond metro area if you feel unsafe to go home,” said the law firm’s president, Doug Barry. “But it does have to be with Gentlemen Taxi, because that’s who we are partnering with.”

Contact Mark Bowes at (804) 649-6450 or mbowes@timesdispatch.com // .