STOP-DWI Gains from Grant

By Conor Mooney

February 12, 2013 Updated Feb 13, 2013 at 12:33 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) In 2012, police agencies in Broome County made more than 600 drunk driving arrests.

In fact, driving while intoxicated, or DWI, is a crime that leads to hundreds of arrests a year in Broome County every year.

Officials say it's a growing problem for a shrinking department.

One person has died so far this year in a drunk driving related incident. That's after going all of 2012 with no DWI-related deaths.

But as departments scale down in size, there are fewer resources devoted to saturation patrols or checkpoints for drunk drivers, and making DWI arrests has become a taller order.

Police say the typical drunk driver is on the road between 12 a.m. and 2 a.m., and that's a time period with typically fewer officers out on patrol.

"Staffing levels have historically been declining and police agencies, not only in this county but the nation you find yourself in a situation or predicament not being able to staff these operations," said Broome County Capt. Frederick Akshar.

Broome County's STOP-DWI program started in 1983, and is funded through fines from DWI convictions.

STOP-DWI aims to stop drunk drivers and educate the public about the dangers.

Broome County and STOP-DWI have secured a federal grant of $23,700 to fund more overtime for officers through 2013.

"That money is used for additional law enforcement checkpoints and patrols throughout the area in addition to the year round program that the county funds," said Chris Marion, director of STOP-DWI in Broome County.

There has been a decrease in DWI arrests since 2009, but both law enforcement and STOP-DWI don't want to see their efforts fall back with the falling numbers.

"There are always going to be DWI arrests, its never going to be completely eradicated from a society that goes out and drinks," Marion said.

An arrest for DWI in Broome Count leads to a greater chance of conviction than most other counties in New York.

Broome County consistently finishes among the top counties for the high conviction rates.

In 2011, the most recent data available, the county ranked number third out of all 62 counties in the state in conviction rates.

According the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, 78.07 percent of DWI arrests ended in a conviction.

Delaware and Otsego Counties ranked 60th and 61st on the list, both with conviction rates lower than 31 percent.

Meanwhile, members of the law enforcement community will continue to work overtime to stop drunk drivers.