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Durango police rank second for nabbing drunken drivers

By Herald staff writer

The Durango Police Department has been recognized by the Colorado Department of Transportation for the number of drunken-driving arrests it made in 2011.

The department made 108 drunken-driving arrests last year, the second-highest among 35 rural law-enforcement agencies in the state, said Lt. Ray Shupe, spokesman for the police department.

CDOT released its rankings earlier this month. The Durango Police Department was recognized for its “excellent contribution to DUI enforcement,” said Leslie Chase, the high-visability enforcement coordinator for CDOT.

“We look at the number of arrests and agencies that go above and beyond and helping in an effort to enforce impaired driving,” Chase said.

A plaque for “outstanding contribution” to the “Heat Is On” enforcement program also was given to the Durango Police Department, Shupe said.

Stopping impaired driving is about public safety, said Sgt. Rita Warfield, with the Durango Police Department.

“It shows that our officers are going out and patrolling the streets,” she said. “Every time we stop a drunk driver, there’s a good chance that we’ve saved lives.”

Ranked No. 1 was the Avon Police Department with 141 DUI arrests in 2011 during the Heat Is On campaign.

Colorado State Patrol Troop 5B, based in Alamosa, was No. 3 with 98 DUI arrests among Colorado’s rural agencies. All agencies outside metro areas with a population of fewer than 50,000 fall under the rural county classification.

CDOT’s Office of Transportation Safety looks at the number of DUI arrests as well as participation in CDOT’s website reporting, which requires agencies to disclose their statistics, Chase said.

The Durango Police Department applies every year to the Heat Is On campaign, which helps fund an extra officer to patrol exclusively for impaired driving.

“We usually have one or two cars out every weekend just doing DUI patrol,” Shupe said. “We work really hard to make sure we’re out there, and we’re enforcing the DUI laws and hopefully encourage folks from driving intoxicated.”

pblank@durangoherald.com

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