Most Washtenaw County police agencies see increase in drunken driving arrests in 2012
After mostly continuous decreases in drunken driving arrests from 2006 until 2011 — something police attributed to decreased staffing and more reactive policing — Saline, Pittsfield Township, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office all increased their arrest numbers last year. The biggest increase came from the sheriff’s office, which went from 100 arrests in 2011 to 169 in 2012.
Spokesman Derrick Jackson said a more proactive approach to policing has helped increase the amount of arrests made by deputies.
“OWI enforcement is really about proactive patrols,” Jackson said. “Sometimes, you'll see someone driving down the street swerving, but it’s usually about staffing levels and having the time to look for it. In a couple places, we were able to get some staffing levels (increased) to allow us to put deputies out there to be proactive.”
AnnArbor.com looked back at the arrest totals for 2012 as a part of MLive Media Group’s updated Disappearing DUI series, which originally published last September. In that series, reporters from across the state found wide disparities in the number of DUI arrests made by police agencies around Michigan.
Jackson added the sheriff’s office does many programs funded by grants that focus on drunken driving enforcement at select times of the year, such as Memorial Day, graduation season and Super Bowl weekend.
Photo illustration by MLive Media Group
“We’ve really tried to make that a focus of the office and get deputies out there and do investigation,” he said. “We're saying, 'Yep, this is a focus of ours and we really want to crack down on OWIs.' ”
In Washtenaw County, agencies such as the Pittsfield Township and Ann Arbor police departments saw their arrest numbers drop considerably from 2006 to 2011. However, both of those departments increased their drunken driving arrests by 31 in 2012.
In Ann Arbor, that increase meant 132 drunken driving arrests were made in 2012. Deputy Chief Jim Baird said the department didn’t do anything special to increase arrests last year, but having some more officers on the road helped.
“The more people who are out there, the more you’re going to run across those,” Baird said. “Most drunk drivers are contacted due to traffic offenses. The more officers, the more contacts they’re going to make, the more drunk drivers are going to be discovered.”
Matt Harshberger, director of the Pittsfield Township Department of Public Safety, said there’s an annual ebb and flow with statistics, but township police have been doing more to target drunken drivers.
“We’ve been doing more of the OHSP (Office of Highway Safety Planning) details and trying to facilitate getting them done in Pittsfield at our busiest intersections,” Harshberger said, “such as Washtenaw Avenue and Carpenter Road, which is the busiest intersection in the county.”
Last year, Harshberger attributed some of the decrease in drunken driving arrests to officers not volunteering for drunken driving details. Pittsfield Township police participated in the details and forced officers to fill the spots that weren’t taken by volunteers. Harshberger said the department stopped forcing officers to do the details and took volunteers only, causing the personnel to decline.
However, as the details have moved into Pittsfield Township and as time has gone on, more and more officers are volunteering.
“That’s because we’re working them more in the township and the officers like working their own jurisdiction,” Harshberger said. “The officers are going to the neighborhoods and hearing about traffic issues and they take them seriously.”
U-M police arrested 61 drunken drivers in 2012, up from 45 the previous year; Saline arrested 50, up from 39; and EMU arrested 18, up from 13.
The decreases from county police agencies were mostly small. Milan made 16 arrests in 2012, down from 22 in 2011; Chelsea made 17 arrests, down from 18; Ypsilanti police made 34 in 2012, down from 45; and Northfield Township made 23, down from 39.
Even though six county police agencies reported increased drunken driving arrests, Washtenaw County police agencies are still not highly ranked when it comes to drunken driving arrests per officer.
According to the MLive analysis, the Saline Police Department has the most drunken driving arrests per officer in the county at 3.8. However, that leaves it at 115th out of 421 police agencies in the entire state of Michigan. The Saugatuk Douglas Police Department ranked first with 32.0. However, just one officer made all 32 of those arrests, statistics show.
Pittsfield Township police had 3.4 arrests per officer (137th in Michigan), Northfield Township had 2.3 (225th), Milan made 1.8 (283th), Chelsea had 1.5 (305th), Ypsilanti had 1.3 (329th), U-M had 1.2 (335th), Ann Arbor had 1.2 (340th) and EMU made 0.6 (391st).
Out of the 50 biggest police agencies in the state, U-M ranked 44th and Ann Arbor ranked 45th in arrests per officer. The sheriff’s office ranked 76th out of 83 sheriff’s offices in the state for arrests per deputy.
Baird pointed toward the comparison between East Lansing and Ann Arbor made by MLive in the past as a reason why he wasn’t concerned about these sort of rankings. In 2011, East Lansing police arrested 620 arrests, which was more than six times more than Ann Arbor police. In 2012, East Lansing police made 386 drunken driving arrests, a considerable decrease but still about three times the amount made in Ann Arbor.
Oftentimes, the priorities in some jurisdictions are vastly different than others, he said.
“They’re two totally different towns, the police department makeup is totally different but the only theme is that they host Big Ten schools,” he said.