Peoria, Arizona – Bell Nets Big DUI Numbers; Entertainment Quarter Leads to Increase

City Attorney Steve Kemp said trends point to a “continual and ongoing increase in drunk driving offenses” near Peoria’s entertainment corridor.

The increase is a change from several years ago, when the neighborhood around Peoria Sports Complex lacked bars, restaurants and theaters that now make Bell Road a vibrant nightspot.

“The area has become a very active and popular entertainment (center),” Mr. Kemp said. “It’s a place that attracts people from all over the Valley, but the other side of this is, with the large number of establishments, you get some people who over drink or don’t understand the impact their consumption will have on their driving.”

Peoria Police Department Sgt. Clark Collier said two motorcycle officers specifically assigned to DUI enforcement spend “about half their time in that area.”  On weekends the department allocates up to four officers to carry out impaired driver enforcement. Sgt. Collier attributes the increased arrest numbers to beefed-up patrol.

In April 2005, officers issued 86 DUI citations in Peoria, according to department records. Forty-four of those citations fell near the entertainment corridor, between Union Hills Drive and Thunderbird Road and the Loop 101 and 75th Avenue.

Through the first four months of this year, officers issued 297 DUI citations, up from 251 issued during the same period in 2004.  Most traffic stops occurred on Bell Road, Paradise Lane, Arrowhead Fountain Center or Mariners Way – roadways contiguous to many pubs, cantinas and restaurants.

“This is a great corridor,” Mr. Kemp said. “It has tremendous opportunities. But before we had that entertainment, you didn’t have this issue.”  The city attorney also attributed increased traffic and growth to the ticket rise.

Hooters, 16550 N. 83rd Ave., strives for alcohol awareness.  General manager Marc Huon’s employees take classes to understand their responsibility not to overserve. Restaurant guidelines prohibit the sale of more than 32 ounces of beer to customers at one time. When each new shift starts, servers are taught to point out patrons who may be inebriated.

Mr. Huon offers cabs to impaired individuals and, on the occasion when someone refuses the service and attempts to drive home, Huon and his staff call the police with license plate numbers.

Police work with establishments to ensure continued safety. Officers follow up with bars or restaurants when they find that people drink excessively at the location.  “An arrested individual usually tells us nine out of 10 times where they’ve been drinking,” Sgt. Collier said.

Police also coordinate with businesses to curb other alcohol-related issues such as assault and auto theft.  Sgt. Collier said DUI offenses in Peoria represent all ages and ethnicities, although the Bell Road entertainment quarter attracts mostly young adults.  Seventy-three of 86 citations in April were issued to men. Nine offenders were under the legal drinking age.

Motorists face a mandatory 24-hour jail sentence if convicted of driving under the influence. Third-time offenders face felony charges and up to four months in prison.

Fines reach thousands of dollars and do not include tow charges or increased insurance rates, Sgt. Collier explained.

“I would say to motorists that you’re lucky if the only thing that happens is a DUI if you drive under the influence,” he added. “If you’re an impaired driver and you kill someone, you’re going to jail for a long time.”

Source: Reprint, with permission, of an article by Peter O’Dowd, Independent Newspapers

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