Metro Drunk Driving Arrests Decline

Officers are taking fewer drunk drivers off the streets. We have the numbers to show a steady decline of arrests the past three years.

The reason for that varies from one source to the next.

Defense attorney Mike Fitzpatrick, who represents dozens of drunk driving clients, is shining a light on fewer DUI arrests by OPD. He says, “DUIs are going down quite a bit.”

Fitzpatrick and his assistant reviewed online police statistics and say they found a drop of more than 1,100 DUI arrests over three years.

“It shows police are not being near as aggressive as they have been in the past,” Fitzpatrick said.

City prosecutor David Smalheiser tells Fact Finders that combined with other law enforcement agencies in Douglas County he's seen a 10 percent drop in DUI cases the last year. He sees this drop in DUI arrests having less to do with enforcement and more to do with tougher laws and smarter drivers.

Smalheiser said, “No, it's not police are doing less or putting less emphasis on this. I'd like to think people are learning a lesson that it's a dangerous behavior they shouldn't engage in.”

Fitzpatrick claims overtime-reducing policies have officers doing paperwork after each DUI arrest instead of shift’s end.

He said, “There are more people out there getting away with drinking and driving. That makes it a public safety issue.”

But the prosecutor says paperwork after each arrest makes a better case. “Those reports are going to be more accurate,” he said. “They're going to be fuller and richer in detail.”

A downward trend in DUI arrests will be examined and debated but nobody should give a toast to the numbers and expect to drive drunk without getting caught.

Police Chief Todd Schmaderer addressed the numbers in a statement that reads, “DUI enforcement is a priority. There has been no de-emphasis on DUI enforcement that would account for the decrease in arrests. Omaha police will continue to analyze the DUI enforcement numbers."

The chief says drivers are smarter about drinking and getting behind the wheel.

According to statistics provided by Smalheiser:

  • In 2011, of the 3,733 DWI cases we filed, 23% were for 2nd or 3rd offense (876)
  • In 2012, of the 2,940 DWI cases we filed, 25% were for 2nd or 3rd offense (743)
  • In 2013, of the 2,744 DWI cases we filed, 21% were for 2nd or 3rd offense (699)

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