For the first time in 10 years, Arizona saw a decline last year in the total number of DUI arrests, according to a report from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
The total number of DUI arrests, compiled from 81 law enforcement agencies across the state, had increased every year from 2004 to 2012, according to the report.
The decline is partly attributable to reduced enforcement caused by staffing cuts.
In 2013, DUI arrests totaled 29,163 statewide, down from 32,171 in 2012, according to the data. That preliminary number doesn’t include an additional 264 DUI arrests by the Tucson Police Department not filed in time for the report’s release.
The city Police Department was one of two Tucson-area agencies that saw its number of DUI arrests increase in 2013, according to state statistics . The other was the Nogales Police Department.
In 2012, Tucson police made 2,470 DUI arrests, compared with 2,686 in 2013.
In addition, the number of DUI-related crashes decreased by 5 percent from 2012 to 2013 in the city, said Sgt. Chris Andreacola, who heads TPD’s Impaired Driver Enforcement Unit.
“For me, those numbers are exactly what I want to see,” Andreacola said about the increase in catching impaired drivers and the decrease in DUI-related crashes.
There were just more than 600 DUI-related crashes within the city limits in 2013, he said.
“I would love to see a day where we had a decrease in both crashes and arrests,” Andreacola said. A decline in both numbers would indicate that there are fewer drunken drivers, “and we know they’re not out there driving because they’re not crashing into people,” he said.
Toward the end of 2009, TPD eliminated one of two DUI squads, which resulted in a decline in arrests in 2010, Andreacola said.
“We are headed up to where we used to be; it was pretty standard for us to be in the 2,800 to 3,000 DUI arrests range and in some years even higher than that,” Andreacola said. “We’re getting back up there, but it’s really a manpower issue; we don’t have the bodies we used to have.”
Statewide, law enforcement agencies are experiencing officer shortages due to budget cuts, said Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
“So, like everything else, when you have less officers on the road, there’s gonna be less arrests, no question about it, but it’s still a fantastic effort,” Gutier said of the recent data.