Travis County Texas DWI Arrests Increase

Travis County Sheriff Greg HamiltonIn January of this year the Travis County Sheriff’s Department set up an DWI enforcement team to specifically identify possible drunk driving. This differs from patrol officers keeping an eye out for drunk drivers while looking for other traffic violations or while be dispatched to service calls.

The result of this on-going campaign has been a 61 percent increase in Travis County DWI arrests. Austin DWI Attorney Paul Dunham confirms the increase in DWI arrests in Travis County, as evidenced by an increase in Travis County DWI clients at his firm Dunham & Rogers.

The Travis County DWI enforcement team covers an area that includes the cities of Austin, Lakeway, Pflugerville and Manor. Sheriff Greg Hamilton said he wanted to create a team that focused on identifying and stopping those who are driving while intoxicated. Last year drunk driving lead to 132 accidents in Travis County, and contributed to the statistics for fatalities and serious injuries.

Travis Country Sheriff’s Office records indicate that 362 DWI arrests have been made between January and June of 2006. During the same period last year the number of arrests was 225. Many of the arrests have taken place on Austin’s major highways, including Interstate 35 and Loop 1.

The team was initially comprised of two officers though it was recently increased to five officers because of its success. The Travis County DWI enforcement team is part of a national trend in which officers train specifically for identifying the signs of drunk driving. The Austin Police Department, which is separate from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, has a DWI unit with about 20 officers. The supervisor of the Travis County team, Lt. Al LeBlanc, says his deputies look "for obvious signs of intoxicated drivers, whether it is weaving or driving too slow or running red lights."

B.J. Hassell, manager of victim’s services for the Texas chapter of MADD, approves of the trend. "If all law enforcement get on the right page, at least we can get (drunk drivers) off the street for at least a while," she said. Sheriff Greg Hamilton reiterates this position by saying, "(with) these units out there, we are going to save a lot of lives".

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