If you’re drunk and you’re driving your car within Riverside’s village limits, be forewarned. Over the past two years, Riverside police have stepped up drunk driving enforcement, more than doubling the number of DUI arrests per year since 2002.
Through Nov. 30 Riverside has made 133 drunk driving arrests, eclipsing their record total of 121 DUI arrests in 2004. In 2002, Riverside’s police force made 52 DUI arrests.
Last month alone, the Riverside police midnight shift arrested 26 motorists for DUI, easily a record for the department. In November 2004, Riverside police made nine DUI arrests.
“It’s clear from our record that we really put an emphasis on enforcement efforts,” said Riverside Police Chief Eugene Karczewski. “Our guys are very aggressive in making stops.”
To put the number of DUI arrests Riverside officers make in a larger context, it’s interesting to look at the number of DUI arrests in neighboring towns. North Riverside and LaGrange Park have made 14 and 20 DUI arrests year to date, while Brookfield has made 52. Oak Park, a town of 55,000 people, had 29
Part of the increase can be attributed to the fact that starting in late 2003, the Riverside Police Department began hiring more officers. Still, the force has a total of just 19 sworn officers, a number that includes the chief, assistant chief and commander.
The 26 DUI arrests made by midnight shift officers were in the course of regular patrol efforts. Most of the arrests are made along the busy state highways that border the village?”Harlem Avenue, Ogden Avenue and First Avenue.
Sgt. Claude Cima, the supervisor for the midnight shift in November said his officers celebrated their final midnight shift of 2005 by “going out with a bang.”
“We actually set a goal of 28 and ended up getting 26,” Cima said. “Several were the result of an officer responding to accidents, but it was really a matter of the guys going out and beating the bushes. There’s a lot of good police work being done.”
Leading the charge for Riverside was Officer Leo Kotor, who has made 23 DUI arrests in 2005 and 112 since 2001. Kotor will soon receive an award from the state of Illinois for his DUI enforcement efforts, Cima said.
The other top officers in the department with respect to DUI enforcement in 2005 are James Lazansky (22) and Jeff Miller (18). All three work the same shift under Cima.
Karczewski suggested another reason why Riverside officers have increased DUI enforcement efforts in the past two years?”the death of former Riverside police officer Michael Gordon. Gordon, who was with the Riverside force from 2000-02, was working as a Chicago police officer in August 2004, when he was killed in the line of duty by a drunk driver who blew through a red light and crashed his vehicle into Gordon’s patrol car.
Karczewski and Weitzel almost immediately began lobbying other state chiefs and local legislators to stiffen penalties for unlicensed, uninsured motorists arrested for DUI. Earlier this year, that lobbying paid off in the form of a new law that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2006. Starting on that date, any unlicensed, uninsured drivers arrested for DUI will face an automatic felony DUI charge.
“Mike’s death had a personal effect on all my officers and on me, too,” Karczewski said.