February 6, 2015

Kansas Highway Patrol DUI Arrests Way Down

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A local news channel ran an interesting story this weekend about the Kansas Highway Patrol and the fact that the agency has way fewer troopers now than it has in years past. The story says their numbers are down 16% since 2008. However, my understanding is that the numbers were way down before 2008 and that the Kansas Highway Patrol currently has  about the same number of troopers that existed in the 1970’s. There is very little state trooper presence on the highways these days, especially overnight. As a result of fewer troopers out on the highways, they are writing way fewer DUI citations. In fact, DUI arrests from the highway patrol are down 53% since 2008.

This is where numbers become interesting. I am surprised that the news didn’t report that “DUI arrests are down 53% in Kansas due to law enforcement!” The fact is that the number of DUI arrests fluctuates in large part based on the amount of attention that the offense is given by the police. I can remember many years ago when the Overland Park Police Department disbanded their “Traffic Safety Unit”, also known as the DUI squad, in order to concentrate on residential burglaries which were becoming a problem. A year later the “statistics” came out and showed that DUI’s were down by 30% and home burglaries were way up. It was reported as if there had been a steep drop in people drinking and driving when, in truth, the police just stopped looking for them and started looking for burglars. Overland Park has not had as many DUI arrests since in my anecdotal experience.

When I started handling DUI cases 20 years ago, I had a ton of cases with the Kansas Highway Patrol in Johnson County and Wyandotte County. There were always at least 3 or 4 troopers who emphasized DUI arrests and made a bunch of them so I would have dozens of cases with them every year. Now, I have very few cases with the Highway Patrol, maybe a handful a year. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Department seems to have stopped writing as many DUI’s in the past few years, as well. On that other hand, certain cities like Mission and Prairie Village Police Departments have increased their DUI enforcement.

DUI statistics can be a function of manpower, like in the current case of the Kansas Highway Patrol, or a function of a policy to emphasize enforcement of DUI or not, or merely a function of an agency having 3 or 4 officers who really want to make DUI arrests and are out hunting for them. When those officers move to a different shift, the numbers go back down. If the Highway Patrol is able to hire more troopers and increase their presence on the highways you can bet that the DUI arrest numbers will go up. It won’t mean that incidence of the crime is rising. Just like if you increase the number of fishermen fishing in a pond from 2 fishermen to 10, you are going to catch a lot more fish. It doesn’t mean the fish population is growing.



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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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