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Cell Phones Help Increase DUI Arrests

FAST FACTS:

  • Mississippi traditionally one of nation’s worst in Alcohol-related deaths
  • Citizens calling in tips to police on cell phones
  • Arrests up statewide as a result

dennis.turner@wreg.com

(Southaven, MS 11/30/2010) In Mississippi, citizens are getting more involved in one aspect of law enforcement, and it’s getting results.

The state has seen an increase in the number of DUI arrests, and a decrease in alcohol-related deaths.

One local Police Chief says it’s because more people are getting mad, and taking action.

Many of us are never without our cell phones.

Most have them handy to talk to friends or relatives, but a growing number of us are also using them to fight crime by reporting it to police on the spot.

Machelle Warburton takes the issue of drunk driving personally, so personally that when she sees someone doing it, or about to, she calls police. “In college we were out one night late and I saw someone who I thought was definitely intoxicated and I actually did call.”

More and more, police say they’re hearing from citizens armed with cell phones and reporting crimes like drunk driving on the spot. “People continually are calling in now somebody weaving in the roadway things like that so we get a lot of those calls.” said Southaven Police Chief Tom Long.

It’s working well in Southaven which has counted 50 more drunk driving arrests this year.

Mississippi has long been known as one of the worst in the nation for its high numbers of alcohol-related deaths, but this year the state is projected to have only about 232 cases, far fewer than the 384 cases reported in 2007.

And along with that increase in arrests, and decrease in deaths, Long says his officers are getting more convictions in court too, thanks to witnesses with cell phones.

“It’s a wonderful thing to bring in other people who said hey I saw this guy falling all over the place, because to the judge these people have no dog in this hunt at all.” said Long.

This all comes as departments devote more resources to drunk driving, as Olive Branch did recently.

DeSoto Sheriff Bill Racso added an additional officer to his DUI detail.

And Warburton says she’d call police again if she saw a drunk driver, “Most definitely yes. The safer the streets, the safer our families will be.”

The Mother’s Against Drunk Driving group is now lobbying to get Mississippi to follow the lead of Arkansas and adopt an ignition interlock device for those convicted of drunk driving, so they’d basically have to pass a breathalyzer test before they can start their cars.

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