The Ottawa Police Department saw 72 DUI incidents in 2017, an increase from 57 in 2016.
A DUI “incident,” Assistant Police Chief Adam Weingartner said, is a stop for suspicion of driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, and most of those stops end in arrests. Because some of those could be potentially drug DUIs, some of those investigations may not have been completed by year’s end.
Drug DUIs have been on the rise for close to a decade, he said, and in particular, prescription drug DUIs.
“The primary drug that we see is Ottawa oxycontin and oxycodone,” Weingartner said. “Those are the main ones.”
About 10 of the 72 DUIs last year included drugs alone or both drugs and alcohol. Part of the increase in DUI incidents is due to adding staff with the Ottawa police, with positions now being fully implemented, Weingartner said.
Alcohol-related DUIs typically occur in the evening and overnight on the weekends, but drug DUIs in Ottawa are common during the day, and even in the morning.
“A lot of the stops we get during the day hours come from tips of other drivers on the roadway that a driver appears to be intoxicated because they’re not maintaining a single lane, or driving erratically,” Weingartner said.
The assistant police chief said the department sincerely appreciates motorists calling to report those drivers to help keep them off the roadway.
“That’s been very helpful in the daytime,” Weingartner said.
The department saw no DUI incidents over New Year’s Eve, but officers were busy with other calls.
“Leading up to midnight, patrol officers were very busy with disturbance calls, which for our department is not the normal for New Year’s,” Weingartner said. “It’s usually pretty quiet. I think the subzero temperatures kept other people in Ottawa, rather than traveling to other places.”
A 22-year-old man was arrested in the 600 block of East Wilson Street on suspicion of domestic battery. That man was also “arrested for damage to property after causing damage to property owned by the City of Ottawa,” according to reports.
A 39-year-old woman was arrested in the 1000 block of North Mulberry Street on suspicion of battery on a law enforcement officer, reckless driving, child endangerment, interference with law enforcement, and disorderly conduct. That woman struck an officer with a motor vehicle, but the officer was not injured, Weingartner said.
Later that night, in the 1600 block of South Main Street, a 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct, pedestrian under the influence and interference with law enforcement.
While the frigid weather seemed to be a factor in the lack of DUI incidents, Weingartner also said the disturbance calls were probably a contributing factor because they reduced the time officers were patrolling the streets.
“I think part of that is a resource issue when the officers are busy with domestic violence, or [an officer was] struck with vehicle — those are lengthy investigations,” he said.
Typically, the department does not have additional staffing on New Year’s Eve.
Weingartner said planning ahead with a designated driver is always a good first step.
“I think it’s important to remind people the reasons why we have DUIs is so that we don’t ever have to notify a family that their loved one has been hit and killed by a drunk driver,” he said. “Plan ahead, and make sure you have a driver, so you don’t have to worry about those consequences.”