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DUI Arrests Up For The First Quarter of 2002

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 impossible."

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 professionally.

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