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Wilbraham Police Department sees dramatic increase in OUI arrests

Date: 9/25/2014

GREATER SPRINGFIELD – The Wilbraham Police Department (WPD) has reported nearly twice the amount of Operating Under the Influence (OUI) arrests have made this year compared to last year.

Police Chief Roger Tucker said this dramatic spike is due to the expertise of new officers trained in detecting the signs of OUI violations.

As of the beginning of September, Wilbraham police had made 60 OUI arrests for alcohol and 14 arrests for drugs this year.

According to information provided by WPD, there were 30 OUI alcohol arrests and four drug related arrests reported in 2013.

The report also shows the second-highest number of arrests in recent years was 46 in 2001.

OUI arrests occur almost on a daily basis in Wilbraham, Tucker stated.

However, he explained the only accurate information is that the police department is arresting more OUI offenders; whether the number of people driving under the influence is increasing is uncertain.

Patrolman Sean Casella, a certified drug-recognition expert (DRE) and instructor, began working with the police department in June, Tucker said.

“It’s not like drunk drivers, where you can give somebody a breathalyzer and determine what it is,” he explained. “The DRE training that he received is pretty intensive, it’s two to three weeks long. A lot of these guys go to major cities and work in their emergency rooms because they deal with a lot of people under the influence of drugs in emergency rooms.”

Patrolman David Diogo, who joined the department in October 2013, specializes in recognizing the characteristics of drug and alcohol impaired drivers, Tucker added.

“What they've been both been gracious enough to do is to share their experience and knowledge with other members of the department,” he said. “So, there's been an entire increase in recognition of the operating under the influence characteristics.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, OUIs cost the United States $199 billion a year, which equates to roughly $800 per adult.

“The initial consequences are you're placed under arrest, you’re put in a booking process, you spend a few hours in a cell, there’s court appearances, there’s thousands of dollars in legal fees that you’re going to pay just having an attorney represent you,” Tucker said.

“And there’s fines and loss of license and depending how many times you've been arrested for that offense, there's potential jail time,” he added.

Tucker said since he was a patrol officer more than 20 years ago, Wilbraham has had a reputation as being a town where the police department takes a proactive stance against OUIs.

“You don’t necessarily even have to be in a car to be killed by a drunk driver; you could be on the sidewalk,” Tucker said. “So, it’s our preference to get them off the road before anyone gets hurt.”

Longmeadow Police Captain John Stankiewicz said there were 27 arrests in 2013 and 29 in 2012.

Typically, there is an average of about 30 OUI arrests per year in Longmeadow and there is an uptick around the holiday season, he added.

Stankiewicz said Wilbraham is likely seeing more OUI related arrests due to the expertise of its newest officers.

East Longmeadow Police Chief Douglas Mellis said the year to date OUI arrests for 2014 is 19 and in 2013 there were 31 OUI arrests.

“So, there’s lots of reasons why you shouldn't do it,” Tucker said. “Unfortunately, most of the time once you're arrested it's too late to think about what the reasons were why you shouldn't.”

In 2013, 12,941 people were arrested in Massachusetts for OUI, resulting in 126 deaths and thousands of injuries, according to information provided by the WPD.