Opinions mixed on DWI checkpoints

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Determining the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints in Clovis and Curry County can’t be judged on numbers alone, according to Clovis police.

DWI arrests in Clovis fluctuate from year to year. The number of DWI arrests in 2005 reported by Clovis police (238) increased 12 percent over 2004, but the figure was below 2002 and 2003.

The most recent checkpoint conducted April 29 on Prince Street resulted in one DWI arrest, according to Lt. Jim Schoeffel, public information officer.

“The fact that we don’t see more (arrests) is a good thing. If we saw more (arrests) then obviously it’s not working — it’s not necessarily a negative that the numbers aren’t high,” he said. “By putting it out there and letting people know, it’s a reminder. We’ve just got to keep it in people’s faces.”

Texico Chief of Police John Mares said his department conducts about one checkpoint a month with the help of the Curry County Sheriff’s department.

“(DWI Checkpoints) are really successful,” Mares said, pointing out his department averages two DWI plus a slew of other arrests and citations from each road block.

Most of the people arrested and given citations by his department are people passing through on their way to and from Texas, according to Mares.

Marie MIlls, a bartender at Webb’s Watering Hole, said the checkpoints affect business. She said customers will come in talking about them.

“They’ll have one drink and then go,” she said.

She says reducing drunken drivers is important, but she is not sure how she feels about the checkpoints.

“There’s always the slight chance they’re going to get (a drunken driver) off the street. On the other hand, I also feel to a certain extent that it’s a form of harassment where they’re watching everyone.”

The increased scrutiny on drivers puts added pressure on alcohol servers who are already concerned about how much patrons have had to drink, she said, explaining sometimes employees at the bar will even offer rides.

“Another part of our job is to care. We don’t want bad things to happen. That’s not what the bar business is about,” she said.

Officers who work the checkpoints are paid overtime through state grants so they do not have to be pulled off their normal shifts, Schoeffel said.

Of those arrested for DWI in 2005, 51 had between one and eight prior convictions, statistics show.

The number of DWI cases per year:
• 2005 — 238
• 2004 — 212
• 2003 — 243
• 2002 — 245

Source: Clovis Police Department annual report