Public Safety

Anti-DUI Efforts, Programs Boosted by Grant Money

Last year, San Diego County Sheriff deputies arrested more than 1,600 people on suspicion of intoxicated driving. Already this year, deputies have arrested more than 1,200 people for driving under the influence. After sentencing and time served, their cases will go to San Diego County Probation officers who will do their best to make sure the person does not re-offend. Currently, 690 of these offenders are under Probation supervision.

To help fund efforts to prevent intoxicated driving and reduce injuries and save lives, local law enforcement will receive nearly $5 million in federal grants for traffic safety initiatives, said California Office of Traffic Safety Executive Director Rhonda Craft at a news conference Wednesday at the County Administration Center, which included Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins, Assistant Sheriff Michael Barnett, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and representatives from other local police departments. 

OTS’ grants included $550,000 for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and more than $480,000 for the San Diego County Probation Department. Sheriff and police use the regional grants for DUI checkpoints, saturation patrols and funding traffic enforcement at problem intersections to prevent speeding, distracted driving, and other infractions known to cause crashes as well as educational outreach efforts, she said.

“Another grant for San Diego County will enable the Probation Department to provide intensive supervision to high-risk felony and repeat DUI offenders to ensure compliance with court-ordered conditions of Probation and to prevent re-arrest,” said Craft.

Jenkins explained how the grants are critical to the region’s efforts to keep dangerous drivers off the road, and how it is used to monitor offenders.

“In Probation, we play a unique role,” said Jenkins. “Our DUI Unit keeps an eye on the worst-of-the worst high-risk, felony and repeat DUI offenders, long after they have been arrested and convicted.  We take what we call a balanced approach, holding offenders accountable, and also linking them with services necessary for their sobriety and success. Our statistics show that it’s working. Less than 5 percent of those convicted of DUI who we monitor go on to receive a new DUI.”

The grant funding helps Probation officers in proactive efforts such as conducting unannounced home searches and compliance checks around the holidays, and driver’s license checkpoints. Additionally, Probation officers compile and send out lists of recent felony DUI offenders living in the area to sheriff or police departments in the area to keep them aware.

“We know that people are more likely to make changes in their lives when they know someone is checking on them and they often need help to initiate that change,” said Jenkins. “Our officers refer offenders to classes and meetings with victims to understand the impact of their actions. Offenders also attend individual and group therapy and substance abuse treatment. Ultimately, our work is about preventing more victims, and there’s a lot of work to do still.”

In 2013, 201 people lost their lives and nearly 18,000 were seriously injured on San Diego roadways, said Craft. More than 36 percent of those fatal collisions involved alcohol.

Local police and Barnett warned San Diegans not to drive intoxicated especially over the Halloween holiday.

“If you do drink, have a designated driver ready or call a taxi. You can also use public transportation. Do the responsible thing: don’t drink and drive,” said Barnett.

Craft said some of the grants will also go toward educational grants to prevent distracted driving and older driver safety and pedestrian safety campaigns. Some grants will also go to Emergency Medical Services to purchase extrication equipment for crash victims.

Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact