Tribune Study: DUI roadblocks cost millions, yield meager results

roadblockcheckThe Chicago Tribune has been looking into the costs and benefits of DUI roadblocks, and they have discovered that Illinois spends millions of dollars on them and they result in few DUI arrests.

Here are some highlights from the story by David Rutter:

During the five years in question, Waukegan police spent $478,000 to nab 890 DUIs at the local checkpoints. That’s just 12 percent of the 7,672 citations issued at those pit stops. The vast bulk of those citations are for burned out taillights, insurance lapses, unbuckled seat belts and license violations.

Further, it means Waukegan police spent $537 to ring up each DUI arrest.

By comparison, Gurnee spent much less, but also got a much quieter bang for the bucks. Gurnee spent $56,000 for 42 DUI arrests, which constituted 4 percent of the 935 total citations.

None of the 200-plus jurisdictions studied statewide came off as models of efficiency in the statistics, but Lake County was particularly pale.

Several, such as Lake Villa, spent $1,000 for each DUI arrest.

Vernon Hills? It spent $2,356 for a goose egg. No DUIs, although officers there did issue four citations for other violations.

Among other departments:

Lake County Sheriff’s Department, $7,044 for 7 DUI arrests which was 6 percent of 123 citations.

South Barrington, $16,299 for 10 DUIs and 290 citations (3 percent).

Fox Lake, $11,995 for 4 DUI nabs among 212 citations (2 percent).

Lake Zurich, $50,988.58 for 76 DUI arrests, 11 percent of 807 citations.

Grayslake/Hainesville, $37,367 for 36 DUI arrests, 7 percent of 501 tickets.

Nobody did particularly well.

Sobriety checkpoints have become the most intrusive and expensive-to-run minor violation gotchas in the state.

Such checkpoints are intrinsically controversial, but the underlying presumption was not to boost local ticket income or even to arrest drivers. The idea was deterrence, although some jurisdictions announce where the checkpoints will be.

Drunken drivers perhaps take another route to avoid the checkpoint. But that’s not exactly deterrence. Being ticketed for a broken taillight does not make you more sober.

But catching any drunken driver is a good thing. I’m all for that. That’s hardly the issue.

The issue is whether giving a half million dollars for random road stops could have been spent better by Waukegan police.

The Supreme Court ruled that impaired driving is more dangerous than the risk to civil liberties posed by rousting innocent drivers without cause. So random checkpoints are legal.

But a dozen states — not Illinois — have decided to make them illegal.

As to the larger question of utility, police spokesmen insist that checkpoints have a positive effect on making roads safer.

No one can quite prove what that effect is.

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