Charleston has always had the reputation of being a drinking town. These days, it may be more accurate to call it a drinking enforcement town.
In a $210,000 grant request for two additional DUI officers, a patrol car, and other equipment, the Charleston Police Department lays out the numbers of what has been a massive crackdown on drunk driving. After slowly increasing DUI enforcement for a few years, the department created a DUI Task Force in 2008 with five officers dedicated to stopping drunk drivers.
In 2006, Charleston police made 132 DUI arrests. That number increased to 416 in 2007 and up to 669 last year — more than four times the arrests made just two years earlier. Drivers license checkpoints have also increased from 26 in 2006 to 152 last year.
Other than using the new officers to increase DUI check points and coverage, the city also plans to expand education programs regarding DUI laws and penalties in order to deter drunk driving — particularly among those under 35, whom account for most of the people involved in DUI-related collisions.
Other data included in the grant request makes it difficult to determine whether the increased enforcement has been a good deterrent. Fatalities have decreased slightly in the last year — from five in 2007 to three in 2008. And the numbers involved in DUI collisions hasn't seen a consistent drop: 227 in '05, 141 in '06, 253 in '07, and 141 in '08.