After years of steady decline, the number of Driving While Intoxicated arrests by the UT Police Department increased in 2016, according to newly released information from the department.
In 2006, there were 220 DWI arrests, and by 2015, that number dropped to 26, according to UTPD’s website. In 2016, however, that number spiked to 60 arrests, and so far this year, there have been 53 DWI arrests, UTPD Captain Gonzalo Gonzalez said.
The recent spike is likely due to an increase in officers who want to take a harder stance on drinking and driving, Gonzalez said.
One of those officers is UTPD Corporal Dustin Farahnak, who has been with the department since 2013. He said the number of DWI arrests this year could easily get into the hundreds at its current rate.
“We have a couple of officers that were hired recently who definitely are trying to do something about drunk drivers,” Farahnak said. “Every time I arrest somebody who is driving while intoxicated, I do feel like I may have saved somebody’s life.”
On Farahnak’s second ever night shift with UTPD, he said a car came speeding at him from the wrong direction on I-35 and collided with the car behind him, killing a firefighter and the drunk driver’s best friend. It was the driver’s birthday, and she was more than two times over the legal limit.
“When you come into this carnage and chaos that was completely unnecessary, from then on when I’m patrolling at night, that’s what I’m looking for,” Farahnak said. “Let me stop one of these. I’ve got to stop another one of these.”
Each officer’s individual patrolling style makes some more prone to encountering drunk drivers than others, Gonzalez said.
“We have one or two on night (patrols) right now that are fairly young officers and they’ve taken a real liking to running traffic,” Gonzalez said. “As a result you will come across more DWIs.”
The reason for the decline since 2006 is not clear and could be related to several factors, officers said. In 2006, individual officers could have wanted to crack down on drunk driving more, but as time went on and those officers left, the number of DWIs went down, Gonzalez said.
Farahnak also said it could be a result of the introduction of the Entertainment Bus by Capital Metro, which runs from West Campus to 6th Street. The bus, developed in coordination with the Austin Police Department, started in 2002 and as ridership grew, the service increased from one route to three routes, Cap Metro spokeswoman Hanna De Hoyos said.
APD Detective Richard Mabe works with the DWI Enforcement Unit and said the buses are good for safely getting students around the city.
“UT in conjunction with Capital Metro does a great job getting the college students to and from campus via the E-Bus or free ride programs,” Mabe said. “I would not say (UT students are) the vast majority of our arrests.”
Despite the uncertainty around why the DWI rate was declining, Farahnak said the spike in arrests shows UTPD officers are working to combat drunk driving.
“What (these numbers) show is our officers are making a greater impact on drunk driving,” Farahnak said.