Creating Impaired Driver General Deterrence
FRESNO POLICE DEPARTMENT
REMOVE ALCOHOL-IMPAIRED DRIVERS (RAID)
The chief’s first goal was to secure permanent funding for the additional officers and other resources that would be necessary to address the issues in a manner that might produce lasting changes. The Fresno Police Department previously had received grants to support countermeasure programs from the California Office of Traffic Safety, but a sustained effort of the magnitude needed in Fresno could not be based on the annual cycle of uncertain grant funds. The City of Fresno could not afford to supplement the police department’s budget, which meant that a novel source of funding was required if the department was to respond credibly to the sudden increase in serious crashes.
Since the 1970s the City of Fresno, along with other California cities, had received no revenue from traffic citations; most revenue from fines has gone to the State, with some redistributed to the counties. However, because officers of the Fresno Police Department write the vast majority of all traffic citations issued in Fresno County, it seemed reasonable to approach the county supervisors with a plan to review and modify the long standing revenue sharing agreement with the County of Fresno. Although it was a bold proposal, the agreement was modified in 2003. The County of Fresno would continue receiving its current level of revenue from traffic fines, but fines in excess of that level, generated by Fresno Police citations, would be paid to the City of Fresno to support increased traffic enforcement operations. The objective was to hold violators accountable for their own traffic enforcement, rather than tax the law abiding residents of Fresno. The additional resources received would be used by the Fresno Police Department to address traffic safety issues.
SPECIAL ENFORCEMENT METHODS
At the same time, the Fresno PD also created a full-time DUI Squad of 26 officers to implement the next phase of the agency’s traffic safety plan. It would be the new DUI Squad’s responsibility to conduct an extraordinary special enforcement program consisting of routine saturation, roving patrols, and frequent sobriety checkpoints. The DUI Squad also was tasked with providing DUI-detection/SFST training for all 700 Fresno PD officers.
The systems analysis also identified procedural and logistical impediments that contributed to inefficiencies of enforcement effort. Identification of the problems led the officers and managers of the DUI Squad to modify the existing operating procedures with the intention of reducing the time required to process DUI arrests. For example, a technician was hired to facilitate the timely drawing of blood samples, which allowed officers to return to patrol quickly and has had the added benefit of eliminating the $159 fee per arrest that the Fresno Police Department formerly was required to pay to the hospital for obtaining a blood sample.
The systems analysis also identified repeat DUI offenders as a contributing factor to the sudden increase in alcohol-involved injury and fatal crashes. This discovery led the Fresno Police Department to adopt unconventional tactics to target drinking drivers, with an emphasis on repeat offenders. The tactics include a DUI Tip Line for motorists to report obviously impaired drivers on the road, a method that had proved to be effective in elevating public awareness in Albuquerque and Tucson. Other tactics include stakeouts and court sting operations, a technique promoted by Chris Murphy of the California Office of Traffic Safety. A court sting operation places an undercover officer in courtrooms where DUI arraignments are conducted. The undercover officer sends a message to uniformed officers waiting in the parking lot when a violator with a suspended license leaves the courtroom. Violators who attempt to drive are arrested for operating a vehicle on a suspended license and their vehicles are impounded. Most of the violators arrested in these special operations are repeat offenders.
FREQUENCY OF OPERATIONS / DURATION OF PROGRAM
The Fresno Police Department has committed to conducting at least 5 sobriety checkpoints each month for the next 2 years in addition to conducting multiple special enforcement campaigns, such as the 15 checkpoints preceding and following the Labor Day weekend.
PUBLIC AWARENESS / PROGRAM VISIBILITY
The Fresno Police Department uses its community- built, Crashed Car Exhibit extensively to elevate public awareness of the agency’s impaired-driving enforcement program. The innovative trailer-mounted exhibit is displayed frequently at schools, sobriety checkpoints, local fairs, and shopping centers. The exhibit includes DVD recordings that are projected on four television monitors; several program options are available which allow the information to be presented in a manner that is most appropriate for the intended audience. Similarly, the department produces traffic safety materials specifically for the major ethnic groups of the area; posters, educational pamphlets, and safety messages in four languages are distributed by the thousands.
The Fresno Police Department’s special enforcement program is supported by extensive, multi-cultural publicity and education campaigns. For example, the department conducted nine child safety seat checkups at highly accessible locations throughout the city during 2003, and distributed educational and general deterrence information at dozens of local events, including cultural celebrations, assemblies, baseball and football games, and during the 13-day Fresno Fair. Special attention is devoted to educating young drivers; Fresno officers participated in presenting the “Every 15 Minutes,” “Reality Check,” and “Seat-belt Challenge” programs at local schools during 2003. The department also produced entertaining and informative public service announcements that were broadcast by a local network affiliate, including during prime viewing periods. Program events are highly publicized and frequently involve live coverage by local radio and television stations.
Language and cultural barriers previously had constrained the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts to educate the many immigrants who live in and around Fresno concerning traffic safety issues. Most of the immigrants are from rural Mexico, several Central American countries, and the highland regions of Southeast Asia, and few qualify as experienced drivers. Further, State and national policies restricting access to driver licensing compel undocumented residents to drive illegally and without the benefit of training and testing that would ensure their knowledge of traffic laws and regulations. The Fresno Police Department responded to the language and cultural barriers by celebrating local cultural diversity through participation in cultural events and sincere efforts to reach the several immigrant communities with traffic safety information conveyed in their native languages.
The Fresno Police Department’s special enforcement efforts are made possible by the new arrangement, under which the agency receives a share of citation revenues. The arrangement was followed by a sharp increase in the number of citations issued by the Fresno Police Department, from 26,000 in 2002 to 62,000 in 2003 (and 85,000 in 2004). The resulting revenue has allowed the program to be largely self-sustaining, and to expand. For example, the DUI Squad increased from 26 to 30 officers (and 2 sergeants) following the first year of operation. The department also benefits from the services of dedicated support staff, including a specialist in the preparation of grant proposals and technical reports.
The Fresno Police Department’s special enforcement program further benefits from the agency’s commitment to training in DUI detection and SFST administration. The highly-trained specialists of the DUI Squad provide the core expertise of the department’s DUI countermeasure efforts, but the specialists also are responsible for elevating the knowledge and skills of their colleagues who have duties other than DUI enforcement.
SUGGESTIONS FROM THE PROGRAM ORGANIZERS
Fresno PD officers and managers also suggest that the free publicity necessary to achieve a general deterrence effect can be obtained by conducting interesting or unusual enforcement activities to attract the attention of news reporters, or by injecting a routine activity with an unusual element. For example, the Traffic Bureau conducted a daytime sobriety checkpoint in the downtown area to serve as a backdrop for a press conference about the department’s special enforcement program.
EVIDENCE OF PROGRAM EFFECTS
The following table shows that the incidence of fatal crashes declined by 11.5 percent in Fresno from 2002 to 2003, compared to a 1.9-percent increase in California and a decline of less than 1 percent nationwide. Further, alcohol-related injury and fatal crashes declined by 17.4 percent and all alcohol-related crashes combined declined by 25 percent, compared to a 6-percent increase in alcohol-related crashes nationwide during the same period. It is reasonable to conclude that the dramatic improvement in traffic safety is associated with the Fresno Police Department’s special enforcement and publicity efforts, which included an 11.3-percent increase in the number of DUI arrests during 2003 and a 140-percent increase in the number of citations issued for all hazardous moving violations.
CRASHES IN FRESNO, CALIFORNIA, AND THE U.S. IN 2002 AND 2003
The following table presents data obtained from the Fresno Police Department and the U.S. Department of Transportation concerning safety belt usage. The data show a 13-percent increase in safety belt use in Fresno between 2002 and 2003, compared to a 5-percent increase nationwide and no measurable change in the already high statewide compliance rate. The data presented in the table are illustrated in the accompanying figure.
SAFETY BELT USE IN FRESNO, CALIFORNIA, AND THE U.S. IN 2002 AND 2003
In recognition for these and other accomplishments, the Fresno Police Department received the prestigious 2003 Chief’s Challenge Award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.