WDAY: The News Leader

Published January 15, 2010, 03:47 PM

Moorhead sees increase in DUIs while Fargo's numbers decline

(WDAY TV) - Some differing results in the number of drunk driving arrests in Fargo and Moorhead. Fargo's numbers are on a steady 3-year decline. Moorhead saw a five percent increase.

DUI arrests in Fargo spiked to an all time high in 2006, one thousand, one hundred and 10 drunk drivers behind bars. Since then, the numbers are steadily going down: 1034 in 2007, 894 in 2008, and 824 in 2009.

“Maybe it's public awareness. People who drink and drive are planning ahead and making better decisions. We also have the billboard campaigns.”

Resources like the "overtime" program, where officers only focus on arresting drunk drivers, are a big help. Police are also pushing early education in the classroom. They're also doing as many sobriety checkpoints as possible.

“Makes them think that the chances are they could get caught if they are driving, and that's what we want them to think. But the purpose is not to arrest people; it's to stop them from driving impaired.”

Since DWI checkpoints are illegal in Minnesota, officers rely on state-funded programs like Safe and Sober, to catch the majority of drunk drivers.

“When officers are working at night enforcement, our DUI numbers will spike during those times, because those patrols are specifically looking for intoxicated drivers.”

Because of Minnesota’s bad economy, Moorhead has fewer officers to spread around, especially in the peak hours when drunk drivers are on the roads.

“They’re going to calls for service, they're doing things that are being requested of them, and they don't have a lot of free time to work traffic. So if we were to count solely on them, our DUI numbers would suffer, our public safety would be in danger.”

This is why officers are thankful for the state-funded programs. To make sure people who have had too much to drink, stay off the streets. In 2009, 824 people were arrested in Fargo, that’s 70 fewer than in 2008. In Moorhead, 332 people were arrested.