Law enforcement changes tactics in combatting drunk driving

In all, three of the 23 arrests involved motorists accused of DUI causing injury, and 11 were for motorists with prior DUI convictions.

Motorists might notice fewer DUI checkpoints on Santa Clarita Valley roads in the next year, but it doesn’t represent a change in priorities for deputies and officers — just a change in tactics.

There are no DUI checkpoints planned in city limits in the next 12 months, according to SCV Sheriff’s Station officials.  

That’s because deputies have decided to put more of a focus on the more popular and increasingly common “saturation patrols,” according to SCV Sheriff’s Station deputies.

For the 2018-19 fiscal year (which runs from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019), SCV Sheriff’s Station officials said they do not have a checkpoint planned, as the federal grants that specifically pay for those operations have not been pursued.

CHP officials still have federal funds available from the Office of Traffic Safety for the current fiscal year, so the Newhall-area location expects to have at least one DUI checkpoint before the end of the calendar year, according to Josh Greengard, spokesman for the CHP Newhall-area Office.



California Highway Patrol officers are using a mix of saturation patrols and DUI checkpoints over the next 12 months, Greengard said.

The California Highway Patrol is able to host the DUI checkpoints through a federal Office of Traffic Safety grant that’s split among the CHP locations throughout the state where, strategically, the operation would have the most impact, Greengard said.

In the SCV, the CHP’s jurisdiction includes the unincorporated areas, which is why CHP checkpoints are always located in the SCV’s areas that are not in city limits.

A recent saturation patrol operation conducted by the CHP showed just how effective such missions can be at finding suspected drunken drivers. While CHP officers arrested 11 drivers on DUI charges during the previous weekend, during one saturation patrol in July  officers conducted more than two dozen DUI investigations and made 23 arrests in an eight-hour span.


Sheriff’s Station

Saturation patrols have become more of the focus versus the DUI checkpoints for the Sheriff’s Station, which, city officials noted, was in large part because the data showed the patrols to be more efficient in catching suspected drunken drivers, said Carrie Lujan, communications manager for the city of Santa Clarita. (The city of Santa Clarita contracts with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement and public safety service within city limits.)

For deputies, the saturation patrols involve deputies identifying any “cluster of crimes, or a cluster of criminal activities or incidents,” said Sgt. Lynch of the SCV Sheriff’s Station’s Motor Division. “Then, we we’ll do a saturation patrol to combat that issue.”

The saturation patrol itself is basically additional patrol cars out on the road that specifically combat an issue identified by law enforcement, said Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the SCV Sheriff’s Station. These are resources that wouldn’t handle routine calls.

“I think that the DUI saturation patrols are very effective,” Miller said, contrasting a saturation patrol to a stationary DUI checkpoint, “in the fact that (deputies) can travel around and watch for impaired driving.”


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