A program to catch drunken drivers may have done the world one better, in the opinion of local law enforcement agencies.
With plenty of advance notice that a dedicated task force of officers would be on the sharp lookout, only a small percentage of traffic stops Wednesday night and into Thursday morning yielded OWI arrests.
Police officers would like to believe that in part, that was because of the highly publicized effort to make drivers aware they were being watched — and that they behaved better as a result.
The City of Brookfield and Village of Elm Grove each dedicated four patrols to the metro-wide sweep focused on ferreting out intoxicated drivers. The Town of Brookfield had two police officers.
Elm Grove's single drunken driving arrest involved a second OWI offense for a driver with a preliminary blood alcohol level of 0.3 — or nearly four times the state's legal intoxication limit for motorists.OWI Task Force - Thanksgiving Eve 2012
Agency OWI Arrests Total Contacts Total Citations Total Warnings Warrants Brookfield, City 1 20 4 17 0 Brookfield, Town 1 7 9 2 0 Elm Grove 1 11 7 4 1 Menomonee Falls 1 35 48 9 1 Wauwatosa 1 26 12 0 0 TOTAL* 16 214 169 99 7 * 12 Police Departments and the State Patrol participated
Source: Southeast Wisconsin High-Visibility Enforcement OWI Task Force
Throughout the area, 16 OWI arrests were made in 214 stops.
"We certainly applaud all of those stopped who were not driving under the influence," said Brookfield Police Capt. Phil Horter, the media officer for the area-wide effort. "Voluntary compliance is what we are attempting to achieve. Our goal is to keep all of the motoring public safe, especially during the holiday season."
Twelve municipal police departments and the State Patrol participated in the High-Visibility Enforcement OWI Task Force deployment Wednesday, and for the first time, the group did its best to let everyone know they were out there.
Streetside roll calls were held at high-traffic intersections at the start of the shift, with the western suburbs gathered at North Mayfair and Blue Mound roads. Media were invited to photograph and film, with the hope that rather than them simply catching more drunken drivers, fewer people would dare to drive drunk.
With just a 7.5 percent arrest rate against contacts with suspicious drivers, it may have worked.
Task Force officers stay on the lookout for erratic driving or the kind of violations that may signal a driver is impaired, such as lane deviations and rolled stop lights.
"With this being our first try at this strategy, I anticipated some bumps in the road, but everyone did a great job and really stepped up with great suggestions for future deployments," said Wauwatosa Police Lt. Tim Sharpee.
Sharpee didn't hesitate with advance notice on the next rounds for drivers to be aware of.
"Our next deployments will be on Dec. 15th and 31st," Sharpee said. "We are looking to do another street corner roll call for the Dec. 31st deployment."