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Targeted patrols take more drunken drivers off roads

Grant helps South Milwaukee put more officers on streets

Jan. 21, 2009

As Lt. Chad Milow turns his police squad onto the 1300 block of Milwaukee Avenue, he slams on the gas and flips on the car’s light bar.

He just spotted a white Jeep Liberty without its lights on. Milow, a 13-year South Milwaukee Police Department veteran, is patrolling for drunken drivers, and at 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night, lack of lights can be a telltale sign.

Milow’s Jan. 16 patrol, a voluntary overtime shift, is paid for in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Safety. The grant is focused on arresting drunken drivers and enforcing seatbelt laws.

Grabbing the microphone off the dash, Milow radios the Jeep’s license plate number to a dispatcher before approaching the vehicle. The driver, a 55-year-old South Milwaukee man, is a valid driver with no warrants. If he is drunk, the dispatcher says, this will be a first offense.

After smelling alcohol on the man’s breath, Milow asks him to step outside the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. The squad’s red and blue lights flash brightly on the snow as the lieutenant explains the tests.

The man loses balance while standing on one foot, and again while walking heel to toe. Milow asks him to follow a pen with his eyes for the horizontal gaze nastigmatism test. Jumpy eyes during this test, Milow said, can indicate intoxication.

“People can’t beat the HGN. You can’t cheat at it,” Milow said. “The pupils don’t lie.”

After the tests, the man is placed under arrest.

Back at the Police Department, a breath test shows the man’s blood-alcohol content is 0.11, more than Wisconsin’s 0.08 legal limit.

“You’re not way over,” Milow told the man in the booking room, “but you’re over.”

The man told police he had drunk three beers.

Milow said the grant’s saturation patrols are working — more drunken drivers are being arrested.

Lt. Cary Fischer, grant administrator, said about 130 drunken drivers were arrested by South Milwaukee police in 2008. As of Jan. 20, 17 tickets had been issued for drunken driving in 2009.

“That’s almost one per day so far this year,” Fischer said. “Normally it’s three a week.”

Since the start of the grant patrols in November, 38 drunken drivers have been arrested as a result of 86 hours of overtime.

Some nights, as many as four additional officers are on the road patrolling for drunken drivers, paid for by the grant. These officers do not take regular service calls while on patrol, allowing them to look specifically for drivers under the influence of alcohol.

Isral DeBruin can be reached at (262) 446-6608.

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