North Carolina: The yearly numbers are in, and the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office made 174 Driving While Impaired arrests in 2010.

 In 2009, the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office made 121 which translates to a 67 percent increase over the past year and nearly a 500 percent increase over the last five years. Are there more intoxicated drivers on the road or is it a more concerted effort by the Sheriff’s Office to identify them? “There is no question we are focusing more on drunk drivers than ever before,” says Sheriff Richard Webster. “I have seen the destruction drunk drivers can cause and will do everything I can to get them off the road.” Sheriff Webster, a 20 year law enforcement veteran has seen many tragedies when it comes to DWI traffic fatalities. “It just does something to you when you see so much death and destruction.”

In 2009, Chatham County deputies ranked 15th out of the 100 Sheriff’s Offices in North Carolina in DWI arrests and Sheriff Webster expects that ranking to improve this year. During the month of September, 22 DWI arrests were made by Sheriff’s deputies, the highest monthly total of this year.

“Our deputies were dispatched to about 38,000 calls this year and that number has increased by several thousand every year,” said Captain Roy Allen. “We are very busy many times and it can be challenging just to get the day to day priorities done; when we see a number like 174, that’s incredible.”

The Sheriff’s Office employs a five man Criminal Enforcement Team that has been very successful in detecting drunk drivers and making numerous arrests in connection with drugs, weapons and other type offenses. This team is responsible for the two canines and is asked to assist many other divisions within the Sheriff’s Office.

“Our CET team does a great job, no question about it but our Patrol Division has also stepped up in a big way”, states Major Gary Blankenship. “With the CET team involved in a variety of investigations that assists our Narcotics and Criminal Investigation Units, we asked our Patrol Deputies to help and they have come through tremendously.”

Sheriff’s Office officials say there is no down side in getting drunk drivers off the road. Deputies obtain extensive training in the detection, apprehension, and prosecution of DWI cases. In fact, they have received nearly 1,500 hours of DWI related training over the last 4 years. They use a variety of efforts to apprehend DWI drivers, which include checkpoints, saturated patrol details and vigilant observations.

“Our deputies are some of the very best officers in the state of North Carolina and I am extremely grateful for their professionalism and commitment in all areas that we are responsible for.” concluded Sheriff Webster.

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