DWI enforcement to increase in July

Thanks to the Republican National Convention taking place in St. Paul this fall, police departments across the state are stepping up DWI enforcement early.

Officials made the decision to break with the national enforcement calendar because of limited officer availability during the RNC, which will run Sept. 1-4.

Minnesota’s DWI enforcement campaign will be take place July 3-26, instead of Aug. 15 to Sept. 1.

About 400 Minnesota law enforcement agencies will patrol during extra hours in July, one of the deadliest months for alcohol-related crashes.

Cmdr. Doug Holtz, St. Paul Police Department RNC spokesman , said roughly 3,500 officers will work at the RNC. Officers from around 80 law enforcement agencies across the metro area and state will be needed for the event.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion said it makes sense to move the enforcement campaign to July because it gets the message out earlier in the summer. But the RNC also creates a unique situation, he said.

“Those events are few and far between,” Campion said.

However, St. Paul isn’t planning on stepping up DWI patrols during the RNC, even if bars are allowed to stay open later, Holtz said.

“We’re planning for a convention, not a catastrophe,” Holtz said.

Nathan Bowie, Department of Public Safety spokesman, said Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments will participate in the July campaign.

University police Lt. Troy Buhta said the department usually participates in impaired driving enforcement campaigns.

During the RNC, UMPD will contribute motorcycle and mounted patrol, Buhta said. However, they will have to monitor campus that week as students move in.

“It’s going to be crazy already here on campus,” Bhuta said.

The July campaign in Minnesota will be funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Ellen Martin, NHTSA spokeswoman, said it’s common for states to break with the national calendar.

On Tuesday at the Metrodome, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety presented 32 “DWI Enforcer All-Stars,” who were selected based on the number of DWI arrests they made in 2007.

In the metro area, Minneapolis police Officer Steve Wuorinen made 60 arrests in that time period. Officer Richard Schwab of the South St. Paul Police Department made 86.

State trooper Adam Flynn , who was not present at the event, made 208 DWI arrests in 2007, the most of any All-Star.

Office of Traffic Safety Director Cheri Marti said timing for stepped-up DWI enforcement is critical. From 2004 to 2006, alcohol-related crashes killed 540 Minnesota motorists, but 64 of those fatalities occurred in July.

“Our goal is to make roads safer,” Marti said.