Key West police have seen a 121 percent
jump in arrests for driving under the influence in the first quarter of
2002 over the same period in 1999.
In the first quarter of 1999, 43 people were arrested for that offense,
while this year, through the end of March, Key West police took 95
impaired drivers off the road, said Sgt. Ed Stress, head of the Key West
Police Department's Traffic Safety Division. "The number of DUI
arrests our officers are making has climbed steadily year after
year," he said.
"Those numbers mean that some lives may have been saved," Stress
said. "Certainly they made a dent in potential injuries and property
damage, but, of course, measuring something that did not happen is
A number of factors contribute to the good news. A DUI specialist is on
duty every night. Each DUI specialist has received extensive training in
these arrests and is called to take over whenever a patrol officer
suspects a driver he has stopped may be impaired, Stress said. That frees
up the patrol officer to go back on the road quickly. And DUI specialists
are trained experts at testifying in court in these cases.
"DUI arrests are among the most tedious arrests," Officer Chris
Ganem, a DUI specialist, said. "The paperwork alone takes about three
hours. We spend a lot of time in court, often on our days off."
Ganem also said that DUI arrests are up also because the department has
more in-car video cameras to document the drivers' impairment. That, in
turn, almost always guarantees successful prosecution in the courts.
Another factor is motivation. Ganem pointed out that the Key West Police
Department's DUI specialists grew up in Key West and have extended
families living here. None of them wants to see a loved one hurt or killed
by a person who chooses to drive while impaired.
He and another DUI specialist, Officer Kevin O'Connell, agree they are
more than pleased with their unit's performance, both personally and
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