Stepped-up enforcement leads to big spike in New Brighton’s impaired-driving arrests


The New Brighton Department of Public Safety’s DWI officer’s squad car, purchased last year through the DWI Officer Grant program, is designed with stealth in mind, in regards to the squad’s darker, less conspicuous graphics, according to deputy director Tony Paetznick.(submitted graphic)

It’s been one full year since the New Brighton Department of Public Safety was awarded a grant providing it the funds to dedicate one full-time officer to patrol the city’s streets for drivers inebriated or otherwise under the influence.

According to NBDPS deputy director Tony Paetznick, this new position was predicted to raise the number of arrests of impaired drivers by 50 percent, but after one year the data shows the arrests raised by 180 percent.

The DWI Officer Grant, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety, is awarded to only 12 cities statewide. 

According to Paetznick, New Brighton is the only city in Ramsey County on the list.

Paetznick said having an officer focus solely on impaired drivers has been beneficial for the community. 

“Traffic safety is a high priority for us,” he said. “I think roadway deaths unfortunately were up last year from the year prior, which is a disturbing trend.”

Paetznick noted that a high percentage of the impaired driver arrests from March 2015 to the present were made by the department’s DWI officer. 

As an agency, Paetznick said New Brighton officers arrested 147 impaired drivers in the past year, making 10 arrests in the month of January alone. 

“Our DWI officer was responsible for 47 of those arrests,” Paetznick said, adding recently in one 12-hour shift the officer arrested three impaired drivers. 

“It’s a significant grant,” Paetznick said. “It’s a four-year funding cycle and we received about $185,000 the first year, which went to purchasing a new vehicle dedicated to the DWI officer, also salary, benefits, overtime, so on.” 

The department will receive approximately $600,000 over the course of the four-year grant, Paetznick said.

As part of the agreement, the department has the ability to swap officers annually to take on the role of DWI officer, a role that largely plays out between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. and some weekends, because according to Paetznick, data shows that’s when the most impaired drivers are on the streets. 

“Impaired driving is a real problem out there,” Paetznick said. “And it’s not just drunken driving, but drug-impaired driving as well. We’re honored we have received this grant to help us focus on this issue.”

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at twitter.com/JPooleNews.

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