(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) In law enforcement's never-ending effort to keep drunk drivers off the street, statewide agencies have now lost funding to one of their widely used tools.
The Missouri House Appropriations Committee dropped funding for DUI checkpoints for the second year in a row. Instead, the committee allocated the funds to saturation patrols.
"The purpose of the House Budget Committee is to decide how best to spend the state's money, and we looked at the effectiveness of saturation patrols versus checkpoints, and saturation patrols get more drunk drivers off the road," Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, chairman of Appropriations Committee, said.
Sgt. Corey Root with the Missouri State Highway Patrol described the difference between the two, saying checkpoints are publicized ahead of time and take place in one location. However, patrols allow officers to mobilize over a certain area and look for any signs of drunk driving or violations.
"With a DWI checkpoint we are required to put that in the paper and in the media to put that out there that we are having a DWI checkpoint," Sgt. Root said. "On average, probably not as many DWIs as what we have in a saturation. However, when we publicize it, how many people does that keep from drinking and driving that night?"
Root said it is not easy to compare the effectiveness of checkpoints against patrols, and even used the analogy of it being like "comparing apples to oranges."
"If you are looking at total results on how many drunks were arrested it's probably a DWI saturation, but if you're looking at a media standpoint and people not being arrested and actually choosing not to drink and drive that night I don't know that we can tell that number," Root said.
According to Fitzpatrick, DUI checkpoints cost more to run and don't end in as many arrests.
"In 2016 alone, there were more than 3,000 arrests as a result of saturation patrols, there were far fewer as a result of checkpoints, costing over $1,000 per arrest to perform," Fitzpatrick said.
Root said the loss of funding didn't impact the Highway Patrol in any way. He said the agency received the same amount of funding this year as they did in 2017.
"Alcohol is still one of the main causes for fatality accidents in the state of Missouri, so we are going to do our best to combat that," Root said.