The North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Highway Safety Program have tallied the number and type of stops during the Fourth of July Booze It & Lose It campaign. The campaign, run by both state and local law enforcement agencies, is about getting impaired drivers off the roads. This is accomplished through saturated patrols and sobriety checkpoints.
“Operation Firecracker” ran from June 27 to July 6 this year and netted 1,929 DWI arrests statewide. Wake County ranked first, with 197 arrests; Guilford County was second, with 141; and Mecklenburg third, with 105.
In 2013, the statewide total was 1,737 DWIs. Last year, though, Guilford ranked first with 146 DWIs; Wake and Mecklenberg were almost tied at 116 and 114, respectively. It’s important to remember, though, that year-over-year comparisons are not always reliable. The campaign runs for about 10 days, covering both the lead-in and the aftermath of the Fourth. If the holiday falls on a weekend, the numbers may be higher.
The focus on drinking and drugs does not bar officers from writing tickets or making arrests for other violations. This year, Operation Firecracker netted 64,626 traffic and criminal citations. Among them were seatbelt and child safety seat violations, speeding tickets and drug charges. According to NCDOT, the campaign also resulted in the arrests of 1,565 “fugitives from justice.”
Fugitives from justice are not necessarily men or women who have staged a prison break. Anyone with an outstanding warrant could be included in the category, and it is possible to issue a bench warrant for a person who has not paid a traffic ticket or who is behind on child support payments. Law enforcement is not rounding up the usual suspects at every checkpoint.
The number does raise a question, though, about sobriety checkpoints. Just how far can a stop at a checkpoint go? Can an officer dig into a driver’s record to find any reason to detain him?
We’ll talk about the guidelines for checkpoints in our next post.
Source: WRAL, “Almost 2,000 DWI arrests in NC after ‘Operation Firecracker’,” July 22, 2014North Carolina Department of Transportation, Governor’s Highway Safety Program, “Booze It & Lose It” News and Data, accessed online July 24, 2014