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Crime & Justice

Countywide 9-day DUI crackdown wraps up

DUI checkpoints are mostly about paperwork.
DUI checkpoints are mostly about paperwork.

It starts with Deputy Robert Hill, postitioned in the center of a four-lane street. 

"Pretty exciting stuff, huh?" Hill says, as he turns towards the next car. The man inside is middle-aged and doesn't speak a lot of English.

"Hi, Sir, how're you doing tonight?" Hill starts.  "OK? OK. it's a DUI checkpoint, we're looking for drunk drivers. Any alcohol or drink tonight?"

"Some coffee," the driver says.

"Coffee? Not Irish coffee, right? No? Alright, thank you, sir. Have a good night."

If the driver doesn't have a license, or looks like they might be drunk, they might end up being sent around the corner to a parking lot outside Bally Total Fitness. There, a trailer and chairs are set up, basically a stand where deputies can complete the masses of paperwork involved in traffic citations.

One deputy is leading a man through a classic drunk check. 

"If I say 'left' I want you to bring your left hand right out in front of you," he says, acting the procedure out. "Using the tip of your finger, touch the tip of your nose. Just like you're pointing at your nose." 

This man passes, but at least two this night end up failing. One gets shipped off to jail for a few hours while he sobers up. The other, a juvenile, waits for his very angry mother to arrive. Meanwhile, the parking lot fills with unlicensed drivers caught in the checkpoint, most with Mexican consular IDs, who wait for a friend with a valid license to come and drive their cars home so they won't be towed.

Seems like a lot of effort, but Sheriff's Department Det. Dan Dail says it's worth it.

"This intersection here at Imperial and Bloomfield in the City of Norwalk has a high propensity for DUI collisions, so that's why we're here," he says. 

Once, the team hit the Antelope Valley for six straight months.

"And their DUI crashes went way, way down," Dail says. "For me, I feel good to know that's because of our work. So hopefully this thing will have some kind of deterrence, where that kid earlier, 17 years old, with marijuana in his system, won't be coming through our checkpoint again."

The next big DUI campaign will be at the end of the summer, around Labor Day weekend.