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05-29-03: Local DUI arrests rise
|By MARGIE WUEBKER
The Daily Standard
Drunk driving arrests in Mercer County have continued to go up,
increasing from 22 in the first four months of 2000 to 48 in the first four months of this
year, the Mercer County Taskforce on Youth Issues learned at a Wednesday meeting.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey presented the DUI and alcohol related
statistics while explaining the primary focus of his department has changed from policing
underage parties to taking impaired drivers off area roadways.
Grey said he looks at the monthly DUI statistics to see if there is a
trend or pattern that needs attention. On Wednesday, he presented to the taskforce the
statistics for months January through April of the last four years.
The statistics show the total number of DUI arrests by the sheriff's
department during the first four months of each year were 22 in 2000, 19 in 2001, 28 in
2002 and 43 this year.
Of the total arrests, the number of those age 18 and below were 3 in
2000, 1 in 2001, 2 in 2002 and 4 this year. The number of people age 18-20 who were
arrested for DUI was 5 in 2000, 4 in 2001, 7 in 2002 and 4 this year.
The largest amount of DUI arrests were adults over age 21. The number
arrested was 14 in both 2000 and 2001, 19 in 2002 and 35 this year. (See accompanying
Last year, the number of DUI arrests by the sheriff's department
throughout the entire year was 118, Grey reported. Five of those were under age 18, 27
arrests were between age 18 and 20 and the rest, 86, were over age 21. In 2000, the
sheriff's deputies made 59 DUI arrests, 39 of which were underage.
Two lives were claimed on Mercer County roadways last year and both
were alcohol-related, Grey said.
The sheriff's statistics for the first four months of each year also
showed the number of DUI arrests that resulted from crashes. The number of those age 21
and over who were arrested after a crash was 4 in 2000, 7 in 2001, 6 in 2002 and 20 this
year. The number of those underage who were picked up after a crash was 2 in 2000, 1 in
2001, and 3 in 2002 and this year. (See accompanying chart).
Some people claim alcohol problems are worse in the south end of the
county and relatively rare in the north. The sheriff quickly cleared up that misconception
for taskforce members.
"We made more DUI arrests in northern Mercer County last year.
Everybody blames the southern part because that's where the bars are located."
Grey told taskforce members deputies continue to respond to reports of
underage drinking and accordingly fill out information cards on young people they nab.
Parents are called in to deal with first-time offenders; repeats earn a ticket to Mercer
County Juvenile Court.
Of the 300 or so cards on file at the sheriff's office, there have been
no more than 10 repeat offenders, leading Grey to comment "I don't think we're doing
too bad in that regard."
Local surveys indicate high schools with low alcohol consumption rates
usually have a higher incidence of drug usage and vice versa.
"We have to focus on more than alcohol here in Mercer
County," Grey said. "At some point alcohol becomes legal; marijuana never
The taskforce, which organized in recent months, has been looking at
problems facing young people. Its mission is "to create a heightened sense of public
awareness about illegal drug and alcohol usage and inappropriate sexual activity among
Mercer County youth."
Sue Wills, youth director at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in
Celina, questioned that philosophy. "Are we going to educate the community or
reiterate the problem we already know exists?"
She believes in giving teen-agers positive alternatives and encouraged
members to get involved in the upcoming "Revolution by the Lake." The new Lake
Festival event will bring several nationally known Christian rock bands to the area.
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