Anti-DUI task force awarded $300K grant

COAST CITIES — San Diego County’s Avoid the 15 DUI Task Force will continue its DUI enforcement operations thanks to a $300,000 grant from the California OTS (Office of Traffic Safety) to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

“Tragically, DUI deaths remain the largest sector, at more than 30 percent of traffic fatalities. This grant will help combat that,” said Christopher J. Murphy, director of the California OTS, in a press release.

The grant will fund operations for the next year, including DUI/drivers license checkpoints, local DUI saturation patrols, as well as warrant sweeps and court stings which target repeat DUI offenders. The grant also covers the overtime pay for deputies and officers who staff these operations.

A San Diego County officer takes part in a DUI-enforcement operation by the Avoid the 15 Task Force by checking drivers’ licenses outside of the Vista Courthouse on Aug. 22. Photo courtesy of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department of Public Affairs.

The Avoid the 15 DUI Task Force is a partnership of 15 law enforcement agencies throughout the County. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has administered the grant between the participating agencies that include the sheriff’s department, the Oceanside Police Department and the Escondido Police Department.

Drunk driving is a “high priority” for San Diego law enforcement and continual anti-DUI operations are a huge undertaking for the county each year, said Lt. Phil Brust of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. The Avoid the 15 Task Force is just one part of the county’s DUI enforcement efforts.

“This (drunk driving) is a problem we don’t want to see become an epidemic,” said Brust.

Since an aggressive funding increase for OTS Avoid task force grants throughout the state in 2005/2006, DUI fatalities have decreased in California, said OTS Law Enforcement Liaison/Avoid Grant Coordinator Wayne Ziese.

The number of people killed by drunk drivers in San Diego County decreased from 93 in 2006 to 49 in 2010, according to the most recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

Most recently, Avoid the 15 Task Force agencies participated in an increased enforcement period for Halloween from Oct. 25 to Nov. 4. The results from this enforcement period are not yet available.

Last year, the Avoid the 15 Task Force used the grant to fund three DUI checkpoints and 69 saturation patrols, according to Ziese. The checkpoints resulted in eight DUI arrests, one felony arrest, and 10 suspended license incidents; the saturation patrols resulted in 1300 traffic stops, 104 DUI arrests, two drug-related arrests, four criminal arrests, and 53 suspended license incidents, said Ziese.

Yet these numbers only represent the operations funded by the OTS Avoid the 15 grant, and do not include results from anti-DUI enforcement activities that are funded by other sources, said Ziese. As such, the above data only represents a portion of these agencies’ anti-DUI activities.

San Diego’s task force is a part of the statewide AVOID Anti-DUI Program, which began in 1973. Participating counties focus anti-DUI efforts during increased awareness periods, which include mid-December through New Year’s, mid-August through Labor Day weekend, Memorial Day weekend, and Independence Day weekend.

San Diego agencies have teamed up for the Avoid Task Force since at least 2008, said Brust.

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