Despite DWI arrests rising steadily, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County is finally on the way to losing its infamous title as the nation’s leader in DWI-related traffic deaths per capita.
The HCSO provides details of recent DWI arrests: “DWI arrests made by Harris County Sheriff’s Office crime-fighters have risen every year for the last five years, indicating a concentrated effort to get drunken drivers off the streets.”
HCSO adds: “But this year the combined unincorporated areas where 1.5 million people live are on pace for the lowest total in at least five years for traffic fatalities caused by driving while intoxicated.”
“There were 24 such cases from January through June of 2012. In the comparative six-month period, there were 48 in 2011, 27 in 2010, 38 in 2009 and 37 in 2008″, stated the HCSO.
Additional statistics were provided in a news release: “Twenty-four deaths in the first six months of this year is 24 too many,” Sheriff Adrian Garcia said. “But the trend line is encouraging. Maybe the driving public is getting the message! If you drink and get the behind the wheel, not only will there be a good chance you will be caught and jailed, but you also may end up with the blood of innocents on your hands.”
According to Sheriff Garcia, he is quite proud of the agency’s patrol deputies and other officers who make communities safer with community outreach and numerous DWI arrests. In fact, the agency has made a steady increase in DWI arrests for the last five consecutive years, despite a three-year county government freeze on law enforcement hiring.
With a reported balanced budget for the first time in six years and despite that hiring freeze, The HCSO is hiring again and adding deputies to the patrol force.
So what could be the driving force behind the decline in DWI fatalities in Harris County? HCSO offers an explanation: “Court-ordered alcoholism intervention programs for DWI defendants and public education campaigns probably have helped increase awareness about the dangers of DWI”, Sheriff Garcia said.
With HCSO deputies patrolling the streets, their presence sends the strongest message of all when they arrest drunk drivers and place them behind bars and off of Harris County streets. Those drivers who potentially endanger other motorists are then hit with a stagnant reality when in jail: “That’s where they sober up and wake up to the reality of now having a criminal record that will possibly affect them for the rest of their lives”, added the HCSO.
Although Sheriff Garcia is proud of the efforts of the HCSO, he says that this is not reason enough to “become complacent”. He vows to continue to continue current efforts and programs that are successful in the fight against DWI fatalities. He also vows to implement programs and measures he sees that will benefit Harris County when it comes to eradicating DWIs.
For Sheriff Garcia, his efforts and the efforts at the HCSO will not stop. He also sends a message to those who are looking to get behind the wheel under the influence of a chemical or driving while impaired: “So please avoid tragedy. If you drink, do it in moderation. If you’re intoxicated, get a ride from a sober driver or make other safe arrangements,” Garcia said. “There’s no room on the roadways of Harris County who recklessly endanger themselves and others. For those who do, we’ll always make room for them in the county jail.” Sheriff Garcia also adds: “Intoxication will still be the road to incarceration.”
Here are recent findings as released by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office:
DWI arrests by HCSO:
2012: 1,367 through June, on pace for 2,734 for the year
DWI fatalities in HCSO patrol areas:
2012: 24 through June, on pace for 48 for the year