DUI Task Force prowls streets
By Jon Johnson, Staff Writer
The Gila Valley had a new weapon against drunk drivers this holiday season. The newly formed Eastern Arizona DUI task force ran at full speed, patrolling Graham and Greenlee counties determined to stop people from drinking and driving.
According to Thatcher Police Sgt. Shaffen Woods, DUI arrests are up in all categories compared to last year, except for citations for people under 21 and for minor consumption. There were 37 DUI arrests (with an average blood alcohol content of .135) made by the task force so far with 10 from New Year's Eve alone.
The DUI task force is made up of deputies from the Graham County Sheriff's Office and officers from Safford, Thatcher, Pima and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. It was once part of the Southern Arizona DUI Task Force, which included police agencies from Nogales, Sierra Vista, Cochise County and the University of Arizona.
Woods applied for and received a grant from the Governor's Office of Highway Safety for $40,000 to fund the program.
The Thatcher Police Department is serving as the coordinating agency for the task force with Shaffen as the project administrator.
“It's really good at building camaraderie among the different agencies,” Woods said. “We all patrol the same areas together to get drunks off the road.”
The task force is aided by a DUI processing van donated by Cochise County. The van is stocked with items for detection of alcohol or drug use, including a chair for drawing blood. Sgt. Woods considers the van to be a valuable tool for the task force.
“It can drive to a suspect's location, or it can be used as a command center with officers bringing their suspects to it,” he said. “What it does is make the whole process more efficient. It frees up the officers from having to go to the jail and gets them back out on the road quicker.”