Recently, Kansas City police arrested 14 drivers for DUI (driving under the influence) at a sobriety checkpoint in the 600 block of Prospect Avenue. Along with those 14 DUI arrests, there were an additional six arrests for driving with a suspended or revoked license, two arrests for moving violations and another eight related to traffic violations.
There was yet another person who was taken into custody after it was found out that he was wanted on a felony burglary charge in Independence. In total, there were approximately 275 vehicles stopped at the sobriety checkpoint between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. that evening.
I like to write about sobriety checkpoints every once in a while to highlight an issue and a concern of mine. While at first glance, it seems that these checkpoints are helping to curb drunk driving and are providing a benefit to the community, the thought process can change when you dig a little deeper.
First of all, every time a sobriety checkpoint is administered by Kansas law enforcement, it costs the taxpayers a hefty sum. Of course, I do not condone drunk driving, however I do think that there are better ways to use this funding. Problems generally arise when a city or county is given a sizeable grant by the state or federal government and the city or county needs to justify the funding.
For instance, if a police department is given a $1 million federal grant, that department better show that they are making the best use of this money. This generally means a lot of arrests. So, what happens when a police department administers a DUI checkpoint but the officers aren't catching a lot of drunk drivers? There are a couple options. First, the officers may take some liberties and arrest drivers who really should not be arrested for DUI in order to inflate the numbers. Or, the officers will start looking for other violations in order to arrest people for something, even if it's not DUI.
When you take a look at headlines that state a certain number arrests resulting from a sobriety checkpoint, read the fine print. When you read the article, I wouldn't be surprised if you see that the majority of the arrests that night were not alcohol-related. This doesn't really hurt police departments - the more traffic violations given out in any given night leads to more revenue for the city.
Preventing drunk driving is important for public safety reasons. However, sobriety checkpoints are not the most efficient use of tax money or grants. Perhaps a proactive approach such as "saturation patrols" are more effective and efficient in deterring drunk driving. Recently, police departments have begun to announce their intentions of either checkpoints or saturation patrols via twitter and other social media. Unfortunately, these announcements do not list specific areas for the checkpoints but serve the purpose of the "notice to the public" requirement for checkpoints.
What do you think? Are sobriety checkpoints the best way to deter drunk driving? Or could the funding be used in more effective ways?