Fresno Police Department
Remove Alcohol-Impaired Drivers (RAID)
The most salient feature of the Fresno Police Department's RAID program is that it is the product of a systematic analysis of local conditions related to impaired driving and the department's enforcement procedures and practices.
The City of Fresno encompasses 101 square miles in the heart of California's San Joaquin Valley. It is a progressive, culturally diverse, and fast growing community. With a population approaching 500,000 residents, Fresno is the sixth most populous city in the State. The San Joaquin Valley produces agricultural products that are consumed throughout the United States and exported abroad. For this reason, many farm workers live in and around Fresno, either permanently or as migrants, and most are recent immigrants or undocumented residents; 26 percent of Fresno's population lives below the Federal poverty level, compared to 16 percent of the State as a whole and 13 percent nationally. With 88 ethnic backgrounds represented and 105 languages spoken in the local school district, the 2000 Census rated Fresno's population as one of the most culturally diverse in the nation, composed of 40 percent Hispanic, 37 percent White, 11 percent Asian, 8 percent African American, and 1 percent Native American. Fresno's unique local conditions present many obstacles to government agencies, and especially to the law enforcement officers who seek to reduce the incidence of impaired driving and in other ways improve traffic safety. However, the officers and managers of the Fresno Police Department viewed the obstacles as challenges.
Background / Planning Process
In 2002, the number of fatal crashes in Fresno jumped to 52 from a 5-year average of 33. The six alcohol involved fatal crashes included in that total was more than twice the 5-year average. The chief of the Fresno Police Department was alarmed by the sudden increase in crashes and determined to take immediate action.
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 taxpayers of Fresno. The additional resources received would be used by the Fresno Police Department to address traffic safety issues.
Special Enforcement Methods
The systems analysis performed by the Fresno Police Department included detailed reviews of collision reports, citations issued, traffic related arrests, and the agency's procedures and enforcement strategies. The analysis led to the identification of a broad spectrum of actions to be implemented, with the ultimate intentions of deterring impaired driving and in other ways reducing the incidence of vehicle crashes. First, the review of collision reports identified impaired driving, occupant safety, speeding, and red light and turning violations as the leading contributors to the sudden increase in injury and fatal crashes. Next, the Fresno Police Department's Traffic Bureau was reorganized and the force increased from 24 to 44 officers. Then, all patrol officers, and the members of the Traffic Unit in particular, were directed to focus their enforcement on the violations that had been identified by the review of collision reports. The surge in enforcement effort resulted in more than 62,000 citations issued during 2003, two and a half times the number issued during the previous year.
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 and 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 ProgramAt least 15 DUI specialists patrol the streets of Fresno each night between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., in addition to the normal complement of patrol officers. Even more remarkable, the Fresno Police Department conducted 32 sobriety checkpoints during 2003, on some occasions deploying a checkpoint during daylight hours, then again at the same or another location that night; and 75 checkpoints were conducted in 2004. The high tempo of special enforcement operations included 15 DUI checkpoints during a 17-day period as part of the national Labor Day Crackdown.
The Fresno Police Department has committed to conducting at least five sobriety checkpoints each month for the next two years in addition to conducting multiple special enforcement campaigns, such as the 15 checkpoints preceding and following the Labor Day weekend.
Each 10-hour checkpoint operation is staffed by 10 traffic officers and 2 supervisors. The program is conducted exclusively by Fresno PD officers and civilian volunteers. Officers of the agency arrested 2,415 DUI drivers in 2003 and expect to increase the number of DUI arrests by 10 percent in 2004.
Public Awareness / Program Visibility
The Fresno Police Department conducts press conferences to announce all new grants, programmatic initiatives, and relevant equipment acquisitions, such as the new DUI/Educational display trailer, or the Crashed Car Exhibit, obtained through community donations. Press packets containing background information and statistical summaries are distributed at the larger press conferences to provide news reporters with sufficient materials to generate the free publicity for the program that is the primary objective of all media events conducted by the department. The Fresno PD follows the press conferences with frequent news releases to keep the public informed of each operation or program; many of the news releases and informational materials are produced in the primary languages spoken by the residents of Fresno. In addition, nightly news line updates are issued to provide news media with current operational statistics, such as the numbers of citations for safety belt or school zone violations, and the numbers of DUI arrests made at sobriety checkpoints. In addition, Traffic Bureau officers are frequent guest speakers at meetings of local community and professional groups, service clubs, and school organizations, and on radio news programs on a weekly basis.
The Fresno Police Department's special enforcement program is supported by extensive, multicultural 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.
Funding is provided by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), the Fresno Police Department, and the modified revenue sharing agreement with Fresno County, as described previously. The agency expects to derive approximately $1.5 million each year from the modified agreement. Also, the Fresno PD places a priority on writing highquality grant proposals to obtain additional funding to support its traffic safety program. For example, the department recently received more than $750,000 from CalOTS to design and implement a stakeout program targeting the “worst of the worst” multiple DUI offenders; the grant includes funding for an assistant district attorney position to specialize in DUI prosecution and handle the increased numbers of arrests resulting from the Fresno Police Department's extensive special enforcement efforts.
The principal lessons derived from the experiences of the Fresno Police Department are presented in the following three sections. The first describes some of the obstacles that were encountered and the actions taken in response. The second includes a discussion of the program strengths that are believed to contribute to the success of the Fresno PD's efforts. The third section presents specific suggestions from officers and the management staff of the Fresno Police Department's Traffic Bureau.
The first obstacle encountered was the requirement to obtain the funds that would be needed to implement a sustained, highly visible special enforcement program of sufficient magnitude to counter the sudden increase in motor vehicle crashes in Fresno. The Fresno Police Department responded with a bold plan to approach the Fresno County supervisors with the intention of negotiating a revenue sharing agreement that would provide the necessary funding without adversely affecting the county's revenue. That is, the citation revenue generated by the Fresno PD above the 2002 level would be paid to the department specifically to support the operations of the Traffic Bureau. This sustained funding source now largely supports the department's increased and continued special enforcement efforts.
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 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 primary strengths of the Fresno Police Department's special enforcement program derive from the systems analysis that was conducted as the first step in the planning process. The results of the analysis provided information that allowed the managers and officers of the Traffic Bureau to create a strategic approach to reducing the incidence of fatal and injury crashes in the community. Among the elements of that approach is a commitment to sustained, high-visibility, special enforcement.
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
The managers and officers of the Fresno Police Department are convinced that obtaining “buy-in” from the public is essential for program success. They adamantly describe the purpose of issuing citations as a means for improving traffic safety for all citizens by changing unsafe driving behaviors. This message is conveyed by individual officers along with each citation issued; in public service announcements and informational materials; and, during countless presentations at schools, public meetings, and community events. Program organizers warn that officers must devote considerable time to defending their actions in the absence of proactive efforts to obtain the public's support for a special enforcement program.
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 Fresno Police Department more than doubled its previous special enforcement efforts in 2003 by deploying daily DUI patrols, conducting 32 sobriety checkpoints supported by a vigorous publicity campaign, and arresting 2,415 impaired drivers. All measures of traffic safety improved substantially in Fresno following implementation of the department's increased enforcement and publicity efforts. The improvements are even more impressive when compared to statewide and national measures.
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 USA in the Years 2002 and 2003
Data Sources: NCSA 2003 Annual Assessment ; Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)
The following table presents data obtained from the Fresno Police Department and the U.S. Department of Transportation concerning safety belt usage. The data shows 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 USA in the Years 2002 and 2003
*Data Source: Safety Belt Use in 2003 – Use Rates in the States and Territories DOT HS 809 713
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.