The Future is Here

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on November 7th, 2006

Some will find this story comforting, others disturbing. But it is the future. Welcome to Fresno, California….

Some See Fresno’s DUI Crackdown as a Model

Fresno, CA. USA Today, Nov. 6 – It’s a Saturday night in Fresno, which means another "bar sting" at another nightclub. This one is at Crossroads, a red-and-white themed bar on North Cedar Street popular with bikers. As closing time nears, undercover police stake out the parking lot and look for departing customers who appear to be drunk…

Fresno may be the toughest city in the nation on drunken drivers. An intoxicated motorist is more likely to run into a police checkpoint in this city of 461,000 than anywhere else in the USA, according to Fresno police. Police sneak into the driveways of convicted drunken drivers to plant Global Positioning System tracking devices on their cars and search their homes for evidence they’ve been drinking…

A few miles from the bar sting operation, Fresno police are working yet another DUI checkpoint. This one, at Ventura and R Streets, is marked by a large sign telling drivers: "Check Point Ahead. DUI and License." A line of orange cones funnels drivers into two single lanes, where police officers check every third motorist’s driver’s license and look for signs of intoxication: slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol. Many drivers already have their windows down and licenses held up for inspection as they approach the brightly lit checkpoint.

"The word’s out in this town," says Detective Mark Van Wyhe, who coordinates the police department’s Repeat DUI Offender Program. "They know we’re out here."

They should. The city ran 94 DUI checkpoints last year, more than any other city in the nation.

Fresno’s bar stings generated controversy when police started them last spring. "There were lots of threats, but no legal action," says Capt. Andrew Hall, commander of the police department’s Traffic Bureau.

Initially, plainclothes police staked out the inside of bars, watched customers consume too much alcohol, then alerted fellow officers outside, who arrested the drunks as they drove off. To defuse the controversy, the officers were moved to the parking lots of the targeted clubs, Dyer says.

Police also run "courtroom stings," monitoring courtrooms where drivers cited for traffic violations are appearing. In many instances, judges suspend the motorists’ licenses. The police officers follow them to their cars and arrest them if they drive off. They also conduct "probation and parole sweeps," searching the homes of convicted drunken drivers for evidence they’ve been drinking. In some instances, police arrest probationers because other family members have beer cans or liquor bottles in the home…

To students of history, all of this may sound vaguely familiar….

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