Police to use grant money for special patrols

Costa Mesa police make more DUI arrests, see most alcohol-related traffic collisions than any other county city.

COSTA MESA — Police are planning to conduct an operation Friday that targets drunk drivers, thanks to a grant from the state Office of Traffic Safety. Known as a "saturation patrol," it is one of the many enforcement tools police can afford to implement.

On Oct. 1, the $364,000 grant kicked in for Costa Mesa. Through September of 2011, the money will fund police overtime for a dozen DUI checkpoints, 16 saturation patrols, additional police training, 11 special stings and increased traffic enforcement.

More than $325,000 of that pays for police overtime, with the rest divvied among training and new equipment, according to the agreement with OTS.

Drunk driving is a big issue in the city every year, with police here regularly making more DUI arrests than in any other Orange County city, and at the same time having among the most alcohol-related traffic collisions.

According to OTS statistics from 2008, the latest numbers available, Costa Mesa had more alcohol-related crashes than any other city in the state with populations of 100,000 to 250,000. It also had the fifth-most DUI arrests, 710, in 2008.

Costa Mesa has 331 alcohol establishments; 233 of them serve alcohol on-site, according to the state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

DUI-related crashes in Costa Mesa have dropped 47% since 2005, police reported.

There were no fatal alcohol-related traffic accidents in the city in 2008, but there were 97 injuries.

The grant gives police specific arrest and citation goals through Sept. 30, 2011. They're expected to increase the amount of seatbelt tickets one point to 8.5%. They're also to impound 2% more vehicles than the previous year, or at least 1,279.

It costs $200 to release a vehicle from a 30-day impound, city staff reports show.

Officers will also conduct court stings, where they stake out the Harbor Justice Center to see if people with suspended licenses from a DUI conviction drive to court. Traffic officers will also monitor intersections with a history of red light and speeding violations.

Part of the grant's requirements is that police notify the public and media about DUI checkpoints before they launch them.

Checkpoints are meant to increase awareness of police enforcement and the dangers of drinking and driving, OTS officials said.

The grant comes at no cost to the city. The OTS grant is part of a larger fund through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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