The number of people arrested by the Graham County Sheriff’s Office for DUI has dramatically increased over the last three years, a fact authorities attribute to extra training and vigilance.
According to GCSO statistics obtained by the Eastern Arizona Courier through an Arizona Open Records Request, 29 people were arrested for driving under the influence in 2018 and 53 were arrested last year.
In just the first five months of this year, 43 have been arrested, six of them for driving with minors in their vehicles or while driving on a suspended license.
“I think due it’s due to training,” said Undersheriff Jeff McCormies. “We have made a great effort to get all of our deputies HGN certified and then those that continue to have interest in DUI offenses, we send them to some of the advanced courses.”
When law enforcement officers are conducting field sobriety investigations, they require drivers to follow a horizontal motion with an object. The eyes of intoxicated drivers will involuntary jerk. It’s called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
McCormies said a high number of new deputies underwent HGN training within the last year or so after several deputies retired.
“Also, too, I think our deputies are constantly improving and I think they are becoming more vigilant in their detection of those who are drugged and driving under the influence,” McCormies said.
The sheriff’s office also participates in saturation patrols paid for by Governor’s Office of Highway Safety grants, he said. Several times a year, law enforcement agencies around the state are required to go on high alert for impaired drivers, particularly around holidays.
Deputies generally encounter two types of people when pulling over drunk drivers, McCormies said. There are those who are very impaired and make the decision to drive drunk and then there are those who just think they are just “buzzed,” he said.
“They think they’re fine. They feel that they’re fine and they get behind the wheel and they’re just fooling themselves and they’re stopped by law enforcement and arrested because they’re beyond the legal limit and they’re driving impaired,” McCormies said.
When he first started out, McCormies said 90 percent of the people arrested for DUI were impaired by alcohol. Nowadays, a lot of people are impaired by drugs, both illicit and prescribed.
In order to arrest and prosecute those people, it’s almost become a science, hence the need for more training, he said.