Saturday, August 06, 2011


Last month, the Programs & Education Committee had the opportunity to ask the “Stop DWI” program coordinator, John Miller, about the current status of their operation. We got a pretty detailed snapshot of how things work.

First, the program is controlled by an Advisory Board which is responsible for the allocation of funds. The funds are limited, so the success of each task are measured against the greater good of the whole program. When we say success, it doesn't apply just to how many people are caught driving impaired but also how many people did we reach through the deterrent portion of the program.

One program outside of road patrols, would be the installation and monitoring of the Interlock Ignition System. Stop DWI and Probation share the effort to keep track of those who have been released and permitted to drive after a court directed enrolment. The “client” is responsible for the cost of both the apparatus and the installation, but in some cases, when they cant afford it, the county does invest. There are several vendors who supply the device and until recently, only a few had the camera. Now they all do.

When considering the budget of Stop DWI, you should know that most of the funds required come from fines. The breathalyzers are actually supplied by the Federal government, so now you know some of your tax dollars are being used on the street.

On the management end, the Stop DWI program used to be funded solely through the county. The formation of the commission allows the funnelling of the money from fines to be rerouted back into the system. Statistics for 2010 show that the Task Force logged in more than 2800 hours of patrol including sobriety checkpoints. Most of the arrests were made in the southern third of the county. Is that because more officers were assigned in that area or do people use the highways & Midhudson Bridge more when consuming alcohol?

If funding were to be cut, the preventative portion of the program is the first to go. Efforts to visit and engage students in school, the after-prom courses and possibly the elimination of the designated assistant DA. Sure, some grants come in to help with the costs derived from Stop DWI, but maintaining the program is imperative.

If you combine the Task Force and the State Police records, 2010 yielded:
  • 117 DWAI
  • 22 Zero Tolerance
  • 234 Aggravated DWI
  • 1035 DWI
  • 176 DWI/Drugs
  • 18 Refusals
  • 413 Aggravated Unlicensed

I don't have to remind anyone that this is just a small sample of those who got caught driving impaired or illegally through this program. I hesitate to estimate just how many people are on the streets and highway driving like this that don't get caught. I will estimate that just about every family out there has been affected by a drunk driving incident where someone either got hurt, or lost a loved one because someone got behind the wheel after a “good time” with friends.

As for the the future of the Stop DWI program, the subject of recent veterans and the advent of higher occurrence of DWI type violations came up. Legislator Hayes informed the committee that there are discussions between VA representatives, the UCCC program directors and some of the area judges to create a “Veteran's Court” which would dive deeper into the causes of alcohol/drug use. How much of a factor PTSD is in the use of alcohol and other drugs is a matter that may require different services. If something comes from these discussions, Miller and Hayes would both revisit and address the committee.


Anonymous said...

The only reason that the DWI Task Forces statistics are combined with the State Police is that without the State Police, statistics would show how little the County Task force does.

Mike Madsen said...

UC DWI Task Force only:

25 DWAI,
11 zero tolerance
106 aggravated DWI
344 DWI
57 DWAI/drugs
39 refusals
346 aggravated unlicensed operations

Anonymous said...

Isn't the director a former legislator? Part of Ulster County reputation of rewarding elected Public servants with cream-puff positions, salaries and benefits?