DUI arrests spike in Carol Stream, Elgin
Carol Stream police tied with Rockford in nabbing the state's highest tally of impaired drivers among Illinois municipal departments outside Chicago, the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists reported Tuesday.
Training officers to detect motorists who are high on drugs is one reason local police departments cite for significant increases in the number of impaired driving arrests in 2015.
Impaired driving arrests by Carol Stream police totaled 464 last year, a 32 percent increase compared to 352 in 2014.
AAIM's annual DUI arrest survey showed Naperville ranked fourth with 369, Elgin came in eighth with 271 and Aurora was ninth with 253. Lake County came first among state sheriff's departments with 367.
Chicago police's 3,315 arrests were tallied separately.
Carol Stream Deputy Police Chief John Jungers called the town's bump in DUI arrests a "pretty big accomplishment" for a department in a town of roughly 40,000.
Both Carol Stream and Elgin police said they have specially trained police designated as "Drug Recognition Experts," who share their expertise with other officers.
"It's a new trend in law enforcement," Elgin Lt. Jeff Adam said. "If someone is on drugs, there isn't the smell of alcohol and the same clues for alcohol impairment."
Elgin raised its DUI arrest total from 228 in 2014.
Officers who stop suspicious drivers can reach out to drug enforcement experts in their department who can pick up on the "subtle clues" of someone who is high on drugs, Adam explained.
"They're able to pick these drivers out and get them off the road," Jungers said.
While other departments have eliminated traffic units during the recession, Carol Stream still has one officer on day shifts and two on nights whose "primary focus" is DUI enforcement.
"It's just a lot of hard work on the part of our officers as a whole, being out there and recognizing these things and making the arrest," Jungers said.
Taking the long view, efforts to keep drunken drivers off the roads are working, AAIM Executive Director Rita Kreslin said. There were 317 alcohol-related crash fatalities in 2014, compared to 458 in 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Still, "progress has been frustratingly slow in trying to make a difference," Kreslin said.
Impaired driving "can occur anytime during the day," Lake County sheriff's spokesman Chris Covelli said. "We've had DUIs at 8 or 9 in the morning. There's no time a DUI driver isn't out there."
Naperville conducts safety checkpoints to look for intoxicated drivers around holidays using federal grant money. But other than those campaigns, the 369 DUI arrests in the city last year came from officer vigilance during regular patrols, police Cmdr. Jason Arres said.
AAIM, state officials and bar associations are on a DUI task force that is reviewing current laws, Kreslin said. Goals are to enhance prosecution, improve adjudication and offer more treatment.
"If you can't change behavior, the problem will get worse," she said.
• Daily Herald staff writers Katlyn Smith and Marie Wilson contributed to this report.