At least 171 alcohol-related arrests were made during the past holiday season in the Denton area as local law enforcement agencies beefed up patrols to help curb alcohol-related accidents and injuries.
The Denton Police Department had seven arrests from 7 a.m. New Year’s Eve until 7 a.m. New Year’s Day on charges of driving while intoxicated or public intoxication, according to Officer Ryan Grelle, Denton police spokesman.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Denton police made only three alcohol-related arrests, Grelle said.
The Texas Highway Patrol reported just seven arrests in Denton County linked to DWI and public intoxication through the entire holiday season.
Spokesman Lonny Haschel said the numbers of arrests were about average.
“I would love to say we had zero — that means people are paying attention to what we are saying,” Haschel said. “Drinking and driving is dangerous.”
While holidays are a concern, Haschel said that people need to remember that no matter what time of year, they shouldn’t be operating a vehicle after consuming any amount of alcohol.
“We are not against people having a good time, but we do want them to stop and hand over the keys if they have had a drink,” Haschel said. “Buzzed driving is drunk driving and it’s not worth risking a life to get back on the road and head home.”
In Denton County, the Carrollton Police Department had the most extensive force out this past holiday season. The department made 134 arrests from Nov. 16, before Thanksgiving, through Jan. 4. Two of those arrested were driving while intoxicated with a child passenger, a state jail felony, officials said.
Assistant Carrollton Police Chief Mark Dant said the figures show that driving while intoxicated continues to be an ongoing problem.
All arrests resulted in a blood draw to determine the blood alcohol content, according Nicole Rodriguez, spokeswoman for Carrollton police.
Carrollton is the only Denton County agency that performs its own blood draws. After a suspected drunken driver is arrested and taken to the Carrollton City Jail, a trained phlebotomist takes a blood sample.
In Lewisville, officers made 18 arrests for driving while intoxicated and five arrests for public intoxication from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day. One of the arrests stemmed from a minor accident Jan. 1.
Lewisville Capt. Jay Powell said the numbers are typical, but they did see an increase on New Year’s Eve compared to last year.
“Over the last few years, we had seen a decrease in DWI arrests on New Year's Eve,” Powell said in an e-mail. “It seemed as though many were heeding the warnings about increased enforcement and were, therefore, utilizing designated drivers.”
Powell said the department is lucky to have a DWI unit that specifically targets intoxicated drivers year-round.
“Not all agencies have that luxury,” he said.
Officials encourage anyone who plans on drinking to have a designated driver, take a cab or spend the night at a hotel. Those who drink at home should stay at home, they said.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews