Federal funding for sobriety checkpoints in Missouri ends in July
JEFFERSON CITY - Many law enforcement agencies increase the amount of sobriety checkpoints as the Fourth of July holiday season approaches.
But since the General Assembly voted to cut state funding for sobriety checkpoints down from $20 million to just $1 starting July 1, many Missouri law enforcement agencies will significantly cut down on the number of checkpoints.
Republicans encouraged the budget cut, saying they were skeptical of the effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints.
The money will go to other types of drunk driving enforcement, such as saturation patrols. Saturation patrols are different from sobriety checkpoints because instead of targeting an entire street to check for DWIs, departments send out officers into a wide area to look for people on the road showing signs of drunk driving.
Any law enforcement agency wanting to conduct a sobriety checkpoint will have to pay for it out of pocket.
Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler said this won't be an issue for his department because they haven't used a sobriety checkpoint in years.
"I think we did one about three years ago, two or three years ago," Wheeler said. "They’re really not as effective as they are sending those cars out and trying to find the ones that are breaking the law."
Wheeler said saturation patrols are not only more effective, but is also easier for the deparment.
"With the resources that I have, the sobriety checkpoints are just hard to set up. You have to have, I mean it’s very man power intensive. Then you also have to worry about, you have to follow the rules to do a sobriety checkpoint," Wheeler said. "It’s really a very technical thing to do, verses us just getting three to four guys together and saying okay today we’re going to hit [Highway] 54 between here and the county line."
Wheeler also said sobriety checkpoints are less effective now because of social media. People know about the checkpoints and know how to avoid them.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Executive Director Meghan Carter disagreed, saying part of the reason sobriety checkpoints work is because people are aware they're happening.
"It serves as a deterrent and as a reminder to everybody in the community that they’re going to be going out that evening," Carter said. "If they are going to be consuming alcohol, it’s a reminder to them that law enforcement is out there and to make a good plan to get home."
Carter also disputed claims that the reduction is a budget cut, saying the money was just moving somewhere else.
"When they said that it was a cost savings initiative, there was really no cost savings because, all in all, all they did was line an item out, and said well all you can have funding for is $1 for sobriety checks," Carter said. "But that overall budget remained the exact same, $20 million."
Both Sheriff Wheeler and Carter agreed the biggest issue is people still driving on the roads after drinking.
"If you’re drinking and driving, you need to stop because you’re either going to hurt yourself or you’re going to hurt somebody else," Wheeler said. "Or one of my people are going to get you, and you’re going to spend a lot of money, and possibly some jail time."
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