Drop in DWI charges during holiday season may be deceiving

Thursday, January 3, 2008 | 7:49 p.m. CST; updated 3:28 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Fewer alcohol-related traffic violations were issued in the last two weeks of 2007 than at the end of the previous two years, but Columbia Police Sgt. Tim Moriarity warns against taking the drop too seriously.

Columbia Police made 12 arrests for driving while intoxicated between Dec. 15 and 31, down from 22 citations in 2006 and 30 in 2005.

“I would like to think that people realize they are running a big risk driving drunk in Columbia and are finding other ways to get home,” Moriarity said.

While the number of DWI arrests during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays were down in 2007, Moriarity says it’s not necessarily because fewer people are driving under the influence. Moriarity said the cause for the drop likely has to do more with a shortage of officers out looking for drunken drivers.

Officers are signing up for overtime to deal with staff shortages rather than using overtime to patrol for drunk drivers, which is forcing officers to deal with drunk driving incidents on a call-to-call basis instead of looking for violations.

Moriarity said another potential cause for fewer arrests in 2007 could be that people simply weren’t out as much for reasons such as bad weather, New Year’s Eve falling on a Monday, and the New Year’s Day Cotton Bowl game.

A complete report of traffic violations for 2007 is expected to be completed around Jan. 15.

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