AMHERST – Drunk-driving charges were up in Amherst for the first part of the summer, but the police department’s crime prevention officer isn’t drawing conclusions.
“I don’t know if we can,” said Const. Tom Wood of the Amherst Police Department.
The numbers are low – low for this year and low for last year. Wood provided statistics for the period stretching May 24 to July 8 this year and in 2012. This year, five impaired driving complaints led to charges, compared to just two in 2012, although unverified complaints were similar: eight in 2012, nine in 2013.
“It’s still out there,” he said of driving under the influence of an intoxicant.
Attitudes have shifted, said Wood, but it’s still a problem.
And it’s a problem he thinks has plateaued. The number of incidences has dropped over the years but doesn’t seem to be dropping more. He said they’re also seeing an increase in charges related to prescription drug abuse (but said it could just be they’ve gotten better at detecting the problem).
A prescription doesn’t give someone a license to drive impaired.
“It would be the same,” he said.
Quite a few of the department’s officers have been trained to detect drivers under the influence of drugs, prescription or illicit.
“It’s quite a process,” said Wood.
An initial battery of tests on-scene can lead to an officer taking the person in to face more extensive testing.
The constable implied it would be a mistake to typecast the people they pull over for DUIs. They could be hardcore alcoholics or not, young or old, and calls come in at all times of the day.
Wood said there’s an even split between police discovering suspected impaired drivers and warnings phoned in by the public.