DUI arrests in DeKalb ‘lowest in four years’

By Dave Gong

DUI arrests in the DeKalb are the lowest they have been in four years, according to the DeKalb Police Department’s 2010 annual report.

The report states there were 133 DUI-related arrests in 2010, a decrease of 24 from 2009.

DeKalb Police Lt. Carl Leoni said police can come across drunk drivers through a variety of ways: routine patrols, accidents where a driver is found to be intoxicated and private citizens reporting possible drunk drivers.

“The biggest bulk comes from routine patrols,” Leoni said.

Leoni said a grant was awarded to the DeKalb Police Department, which allowed DeKalb Police to hire officers to patrol the city’s busiest areas like Lincoln Highway and Annie Glidden Road. The grant period ended in September 2010, and DeKalb Police are no longer eligible to receive that money, Leoni said.

Leoni said the grant was a three-year grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic Safety and was originally awarded in 2009. The DeKalb Police Department received $135,281 from Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2010, he said.

“We have been patrolling about 40 hours less [per week] since the last quarter of 2010,” Leoni said. “Theoretically, less patrolling means less DUI arrests.”

Leoni said police have not done anything differently during patrols, but recent cases, like those involving assault and battery, take more time to investigate which takes away from the number of officers on patrol.

DeKalb’s accident rate and the number of complaints from private citizens has gone down recently, which may relate to lower arrest numbers, Leoni said.

According to the annual report, more DUI arrests are made Thursday through Sunday during a given week. However, Leoni said police are not sending more officers out to specifically look for intoxicated drivers.

“Our shifts are set up so there are more officers out on busier nights,” Leoni said.

Clay Campbell, DeKalb County state’s attorney, said he thinks the public is getting the message that drunk driving is illegal and unacceptable.

Leoni also said he thinks the message is getting through to citizens.

“We’ve tried to send the message of zero-tolerance for DUIs,” Campbell said.

Campbell said it is the policy of the State’s Attorney’s Office to put first-time offenders into treatment as soon as possible. First-time offenders are subject to substantial finesand a long period of court supervision.

First-time offenders must also undergo alcohol treatment and must participate in the Victim Impact Panel, during which victims and their families talk about the impact and penalties associated with driving under the influence. First-time offenders may also have their driver’s license suspended. According to dui.drivinglaws.org, first-time DUI offenders in Illinois may also be required to have a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) installed in their vehicles. A BAIID is a Breathalyzer device that prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has a blood alcohol level over a limit that has been programmed into the device.

The DUI Counseling Center, 407 W. State St. Suite 9 in Sycamore, provides different levels of counseling for DUI offenders, said director Ron Partch.

Partch said the levels of counseling offered by the DUI Counseling Center are minimal risk, moderate risk and significant risk counseling. Minimal risk counseling is for people with no prior DUI offenses who registered a blood alcohol content between .08 and .14 on a Breathalyzer. Moderate risk is also offered for people with no prior offenses, but registered between .15 and .19 on the Breathalyzer. Significant risk is for people who have prior DUI offenses and show symptoms of alcohol abuse or dependence. Significant risk counseling includes more time for counseling, education and aftercare than minimal risk or moderate risk programs, Partch said.

“We get referrals from attorneys and the courts,” he said. “We are one of two or three providers [of DUI counseling] in DeKalb County.”

Campbell said the penalties for drunk driving increase in severity for each offense.

“The penalties in Illinois are drastic each time after a first offense,” Campbell said.

If a person is convicted of driving under the influence for a second time, the driver may have their license revoked, Campbell said. Offenders also face potential jail time, increased fines, more extensive alcohol treatment and community service.