DWI arrests up in Calcasieu

By Lee Peck - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - In 2009 local law enforcement took 1,680 impaired drivers off the road. That's compared to roughly 1,520 the year before.

"I don't think we had hat many more people who were driving impaired on alcohol or drugs, we are catching a lot more of them and that's what has happened over the last few years," said Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier.

DeRosier credits increased check points and dash cam video to arming prosecutors with more proof in court. Officers are also enforcing the no-refusal policy, where drivers who are clearly intoxicated must submit to a blood test. With the evidence in hand most plead guilty. Currently there are 11-hundred DWI cases pending in Calcasieu.

"We are prepared to try each and every one of those cases if we have to," said DeRosier.

DeRosier is also focusing his efforts on amending the statute for the minimum jail time third and fourth time offenders would have to serve if convicted.

"It is a problem nationwide and it's not going away. It's something we have to deal with in terms of getting the impaired drivers off the highways. There are numerous ways to do that and will explore any possibility that helps us get more off the roads," said DeRosier.

The parish is also aggressively attacking underage drinking. "It's a big problem and it's under reported," said Katherine Vincent, Program Director with the Calcasieu Office of Juvenile Justice Services.

Vincent says a statewide survey of students identified Calcasieu among the top ten parishes for high rates of underage drinking.

"It takes money it takes personnel, it takes equipment to be able to address it and we now have that," said Vincent.

The Governor's Office awarded Calcasieu a 1.3-million dollar grant for education programs, increased compliance and DWI checkpoints and party patrols to target underage drinkers.

"Party patrol addresses social hosting, when there are house parties where juveniles are being served alcohol. Neighbors or somebody driving by can contact law enforcement to go out to that house and investigate," said Vincent.

The 18-month program covers every municipality in the parish.

Copyright 2009 KPLC. All rights reserved.