The California Office of Traffic Safety awarded the Goleta Police Department a $68,250 grant to fund a year-long anti-DUI program.
The grant provides support for 12 DUI sobriety checkpoints throughout the fiscal year aimed at reducing alcohol and drug-related accidents. The money will be put toward checkpoint officer salaries and new equipment such as road signs, lighting and cones.
According to Sgt. Kevin Huddle, Goleta Police Department Motor Traffic Unit leader and applicant for the grant, the program was put in place due to the high number of DUI cases in the Goleta area. Huddle said community concern about protecting the unincorporated area of Isla Vista helped allow the grant to pass.
“It’s based on statistics, fatalities … accidents involving impaired drivers and things of that nature,” Huddle said. “With our proximity to Isla Vista, they realized there’s a lot of alcohol, there’s a lot of drug abuse, and the only way in and out of Isla Vista other than through UCSB campus [is] through the city of Goleta.”
Nevertheless, Huddle said Isla Vista is not the program’s main focus and that all funds and operations of checkpoints will remain within Goleta city limits.
“Many of [the checkpoints] are set up [near the entrances] of Isla Vista because that’s where we get a lot of our DUI drivers,” he said. “But the checkpoints themselves, since it’s a grant given to the city of Goleta, have to be within the city limits. The Goleta Police Department would never do a DUI checkpoint in Isla Vista.”
In a press release from the city of Goleta, Police Chief Lt. Butch Arnoldi cautioned that those caught driving under the influence will be arrested without discretion.
“Obviously we want to remind everyone that it is illegal to drive impaired,” Arnoldi said. “We hope the campaign will remind people that if they plan on drinking, to never get behind the wheel.”
Huddle said the program will likely continue in the future as long as DUI cases remain at their current level.
“Every year you have to apply for it [and] for the last seven or eight years we’ve received a grant,” Huddle said. “[We receive] different dollar amounts but keep reapplying.”
Last year Goleta saw three deaths and 18 injuries due to alcohol and drug-related crashes, which continue to pose a major problem across the state. According to California Office of Traffic Safety statistics, when checkpoints are conducted, causalities and fatalities decrease by about 20 percent. The punishment for driving under the influence can include license suspension, insurance increases and fines up to about $10,000 and jail time.
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of November 13th, 2012′s print edition of the Nexus.