Posted March 12, 2012
BARRINGTON — Barrington Police Chief John LaCross remembers the night a drunk driver nearly slammed straight into his car.
It was a few years ago at about 8:30 p.m. and the chief was driving south on County Road. Also inside the car were the chief’s wife and their daughter. They were passing by the Prince’s Hill shopping plaza when a northbound car swerved over the double-yellow lines and rolled directly toward Chief LaCross and his family.
“I laid on the horn,” said the chief. “He was coming right at us.”
Startled by the blaring horn, the other driver swerved back into the northbound lane and then continued into the curb. He motored down County Road while the chief called the department and alerted officers to the other vehicle. A short while later, police charged that motorist with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The police department regularly makes DUI arrests in Barrington but 2011 saw a significant increase — an 89 percent increase. Barrington police made 28 drunk driving arrests in 2010 and 50 in 2011.
Chief LaCross credited the vigilance of his officers for the increased arrest rate. He said two of the department’s younger patrolmen — Officers Walter Larson and Josh Melo — have been very proactive during their late-night shifts.
“Some of it is observation. Some of the newer guys have the training fresh in their minds,” Chief LaCross said, adding that Officer Melo recently completed training as a drug recognition expert.
The Barrington Police Department has also benefited from grant money for increased drunk driving patrols and from coordinated efforts with the Rhode Island State Police and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
The trend of increased DUI arrests in Barrington appears to be continuing into 2012. In a typical week in early February, local police made two drunk driving arrests, and during the first weekend in March officers charged another three people with DUI. Those arrests included two individuals from outside of Barrington.
Chief LaCross said most of the arrests are made after stops for speeding motorists or following car accidents.
Making a DUI arrest is only part of the process for local police; following through with a conviction in court after the arrest is crucial also, said the chief.
“The large majority (of people stopped and later charged with DUI) do not blow into the breathalyzer. You have to base your case on observation,” Chief LaCross said.
“We double-charge (with refusal to submit to a chemical test) like most departments in this state. If they plead out, the other charge is dropped, usually.”
That approach, he said, has led to a 96 percent conviction rate — the suspect is either convicted in district court on the DUI charge or in traffic court on the refusal to submit charge.
Chief LaCross said the “deck is stacked against” local police throughout the drunk driving arrest process.
“It can get frustrating for officers, but at least they’re pulling a drunk driver off the road that night,” he said.
“If you can stop somebody, you don’t know if you just saved a life.”
Three more DUI arrests last week
• At approximately 7:57 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, police were notified of a possibly intoxicated driver traveling south on Wampanoag Trail. Poice caught up with the vehicle, reportedly a green Dodge Ram pick-up truck, on Lincoln Avenue. The vehicle was reportedly observed crossing over the fog line while making a left turn onto Washington Road before making another wide right on Alfred Drowne Road. The driver, identified as Robert W. Collington, 56, of 166 Main St., Cranston, reportedly told police he was going to see his girlfriend on Third Street. He allegedly had slurred speech and said he had consumed a couple of beers. Mr. Collington reportedly consented to a breathalyzer, registering a .176 percent and .188 percent, both more than twice the legal limit of .08 percent. He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs first offense .15 or greater.
• At approximately 6:26 p.m. on Friday, March 9, police received a report of an erratic operator driving a white Ford Explorer on Wampanoag Trail. Police stopped the vehicle on County Road near the Barrington Early Learning Center. The driver of the vehicle, Layne C. Savage, 31, of 49 St. Elizabeth St., Apt. 2, Bristol, allegedly had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. Ms. Savage reportedly did not perform field sobriety tests or take a breathalyzer. Police reportedly found partially empty wine containers in the vehicle along with partially empty liquor containers. She was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs-first offense, refusal to submit to a chemical test and driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license.
• Police working a radar post reportedly pulled over a black Honda driven by Timothy E. Smith, 34, of 42 Market St., first floor, Warren, at the intersection of Wampanoag Trail and Primrose Hill Road at about 3:29 a.m. on Sunday, March 11. Mr. Smith allegedly had bloodshot eyes and opened the vehicle’s door instead of its windows when approached by police. A strong smell of alcohol was reportedly detected coming from the vehicle and Mr. Smith allegedly told police he was coming from a bar in Providence and had consumed five beers. He reportedly failed field sobriety tests and was charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol-second offense within five years, driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license, laned roadway violations and refusal to submit to a chemical test-second offense.
Full article link: http://www.eastbayri.com/news/2012/mar/12/drunk-driving-arrests-89-percent-barrington/