Officials in Nassau County, reacting to reports that the number of arrests on suspicion of drinking and driving has gone down in recent years, are redoubling their efforts to make as many such arrests as possible. They are reviving the Selective Enforcement Team (SET), a unit that specifically looks for suspected drunk drivers, using patrols of checkpoints so-called DWI “hot spots.”
The SET averaged more than 2,600 DWI arrests in Nassau County between 2008 and 2011. That year, the unit was disbanded. In 2012, the number of arrests on suspicion of drinking and driving dropped to about 1,800. The figure for 2013 was around 1,500.
The police seem to be assuming that the drop in arrests means that more drivers are getting away with drunk driving. However, there were not more car accidents blamed on DWI in the first year after the original SET went away. There were 611 collisions that allegedly involved a drunk driver in 2011. The next year, there were 600. The number of deaths stayed exactly the same, with 25 both years. In 2013, the number dropped slightly to 24.
Nevertheless, Nassau police will add 3,000 patrols for a total of 20,000 extra hours as part of restarting the SET.
Most people agree that drinking and driving is a problem. But it is also vital that police follow the rules when searching for impaired drivers. For example, officers need a reasonable, articulable suspicion that a driver is committing or has committed a crime before they can pull over the vehicle.
Failure to follow these laws is an abuse of power by the police. The courts enforce those rules by disallowing evidence obtained by illegal police work.
Source: WCBS-TV, “Nassau County Police Bringing Back DWI Unit,” May 23, 2014