Holiday Arrests for Drunk Driving Rise

Times Staff Writer

A drunk-driving crackdown this holiday season by a special task force of South Bay law enforcement agencies resulted in a 32% increase in arrests over the previous year.

The task force, made up of nine local agencies, arrested 160 people from Dec. 19 to 23 and Dec. 27 to Jan. 1, up from 121 during the same periods in 1986.

Police Lt. Charles Moore of the Gardena Police Department, which coordinated this year's crackdown, called it "a significant increase."

"There were possibly more drunk drivers on the road this year than last. We obviously made more arrests. It was successful. I wish it wasn't successful. I wish there were no drunk drivers out there, but, obviously, that's wishful thinking."

He said there seemed to be fewer arrests on the traditionally heavy drinking nights, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. "The officers said it was kind of quiet," Moore said. "There were taxicabs all over the place. . . . I think that's good. They should do that more often--they should either have a taxicab or someone who's not drinking drive a car."

Agencies involved in the task force were the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the California Highway Patrol and police departments from El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach.

The task force also made 10 felony arrests on charges that included auto theft and possession of illegal weapons, and seven misdemeanor arrests unrelated to drunk driving.

In Torrance, police have set up a drunk-driving checkpoint at unannounced locations on different nights since Dec. 18--the first established by a South Bay police department. Sgt. Gary Webb said the roadblocks, whose legality was upheld in October by the California Supreme Court, have been very successful.

Five people were arrested at the checkpoint on the first night, Webb said. Statistics for arrests on other nights were unavailable, he said.

In addition to stopping and testing drivers who appear to be drunk, officers are giving motorists information about driving under the influence.

Police will end the checkpoints early this week, Webb said, but may resume them after reviewing the operation.

By Saturday afternoon of New Year's weekend, the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department had arrested two people. "With us, it's feast or famine," Officer Patrick Strahan said. "You can go out and people are doing 10,000 things to get caught, and the next day you don't find anything."

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