Riverside police are on pace to arrest a record number of drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to figures released by Police Chief Thomas Weitzel last week.
Through June 30, Riverside police made 77 arrests for DUI, putting them on a pace to make 154 for the year. That number would top the department’s previous high-water mark of 140 in 2005.
Since 2010, Riverside police have averaged 113 DUI arrests annually.
“Riverside, a community of 9,000, will be on pace for 150 drunk and drugged driving arrests this year,” Weitzel said. “That is an astonishing amount of impaired drivers on our roadways.”
Last year was the first time Riverside began tracking numbers for drug-related DUIs. According to the police department’s annual report, there were 13 drug DUIs in 2015. Through the first six months of 2016, Riverside police had made seven drug DUI arrests, said Weitzel.
Two of those involved driving under the influence of heroin. There were no heroin-related DUIs in 2015, Weitzel said.
In Brookfield, where DUIs overall are actually down year over year, the number of impaired-driving incidents involving opioids or heroin is up.
There were just 14 DUI arrests in Brookfield during the first six months of 2016, but four of them – almost 30 percent – involved drugs. Evidence of heroin use was found in three of the four. The fourth involved prescription opioids.
“There’s definitely been an uptick in the number of contacts we’ve had with people under the influence of heroin,” said Brookfield Deputy Police Chief Edward Petrak.
In both 2014 and 2015, when the department’s officers made 42 and 67 impaired-driving arrests respectively, Brookfield police recorded five DUI incidents involving drugs. In the three years prior to 2014, the department made just five total drug-related DUI arrests.
While Riverside is about half the size of Brookfield, its police officers, particularly on the midnight shift, have traditionally made DUI enforcement a priority. That focus isn’t an accident.
“It’s certainly been a priority of my administration,” Weitzel said. “I’m a big advocate for removing impaired drivers from the roads. And we don’t make exceptions for anybody. The days of taking the keys away and telling them not to drive are gone. If you’re impaired, you’re going to be arrested.”