Law enforcement agencies across Arizona are gearing up for this year’s holiday DUI task force, but it’s going to look a lot different than years past.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been less people on the roads, and that’s translated into less DUI arrests in many cities – except in the East Valley.
Fewer people in the Valley overall have been getting caught and sent to jail for drunk or drugged driving as Phoenix and Scottsdale police departments are reporting a decrease in DUI arrests.
However, Gilbert and Chandler police departments both say they’re arresting even more people for DUI during this pandemic.
"Gilbert is a heavy residential area. We don’t have the big nightlife and clubs and bars," said Dani Covey with the Gilbert Police Department.
Business closures may be contributing to lower DUIs across the Valley, but officials speculate pandemic-related hardships may be to blame for an apparent increase in substance abuse in the East Valley.
Gilbert is seeing a 31% jump in DUI arrests so far this year, with Covey saying, "People are staying home more and they’re going through these big life changes, and unfortunately losing jobs and having your life turned upside down can lead to setbacks. People are falling to drinking or back into addiction."
Chandler Police are seeing a 16% increase in DUI arrests in their city so far this year with a 44% spike in drug-related DUIs. Officials speculate it’s due to better enforcement.
"We do think we have tried to raise the awareness within our department in increasing the amount of training for our officers to allow more drug recognition experts," said Zack Waters with the Chandler Police Department.
Across the Valley, drivers can expect to see more officers on the roads. This year’s statewide holiday DUI task force will go on – but in a different way.
"DUI enforcement means we’re going to have officers out there, specifically looking for DUI impairment. We’re not going to have checkpoints but we will have additional officers out there, " said Maggie Cox with the Phoenix Police Department.
Waters, with Chander Police, says there will be a van driving around with personnel ready to test the blood of a driver suspected of being impaired.
Thanksgiving eve lands on Nov. 25 and is historically one of the biggest drinking nights of the year. Police are urging people, if you do plan on drinking and celebrating with family and friends at home or out at a restaurant, be sure to plan for a sober driver.