Rhode Island police make few drunken-driving arrests compared with police elsewhere, and some departments make so few that the chance of being caught is minimal, reports the Providence Journal. A Journal analysis of five years of state-police arrest figures suggests that your chances of being caught vary dramatically depending on where you drive when you’ve been drinking. Alcohol-related traffic fatalities frequently take place where police enforcement is weakest. Many Rhode Island cities and towns dramatically increased their arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) between 2000 and 2004. Yet FBI statistics for 2003 say Rhode Island police made the second-fewest drunken-driving arrests in the nation (after Delaware) on a per capita basis.
In Providence, the police reported just 24 arrests last year for driving under the influence. Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman doesn’t suggest that his city’s low-arrest figures mean that drunken driving is under control. “Everything we have done for the last two and a half years has focused on the violence,” he said, “and I make no apology for it.” Esserman said he thought things were getting under control, and that he intended to step up traffic enforcement. Cities have much more serious crime, suggesting that one factor holding down DUI arrests in the cities may be the sheer volume of crime there compared with the number of officers available. Federal statistics showing that Rhode Island had the highest percentage of alcohol-related fatal accidents in the nation for five years running have focused attention on the issue here.