An increase in vandalism, drunk in publics, open containers, urinating in public, and illegal lodging has led to increased police patrolling downtown.
Because of increased activity and problems in the area, the San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) has two new police officers patrolling downtown San Luis Obispo during daytime hours.
Officers Brent Englehart and Kevin Waddell began on Jan. 2, providing coverage seven days of the week in the downtown area, in conjunction with nighttime DUI Officer Konzek, who was hired in Nov. 2013.
“There’s some times it’s nice to know there’s extra police walking around,” said Kara Erdiakoff, a nutrition junior.
There has been an increase in vandalism, drunk in publics, open containers, urinating in public, and illegal lodging during the day throughout the past years – creating the need for increased police presence, SLOPD Capt. Christopher Staley said. The San Luis Obispo City Council recognized this need and approved the hiring of the two new officer positions with the approval of the 2013-2015 fiscal budget in June 2013. The officers will cost $624,000 for the next two years.
Both officers have been working night watch for the past two years and have become familiar with downtown businesses, bars and restaurants.
“They were able to hit the ground running,” Staley said.
Although the two new officer positions are during daytime hours downtown, San Luis Obispo police are present at night as well. Nighttime brings different activities as patrons frequent bars and restaurants downtown. Most nighttime enforcement is because of alcohol consumption, according to the 2012 annual SLOPD report, “officers work closely with nighttime establishments to ensure they are operating in a safe manner, including ensuring individuals under 21 are not served alcohol.”
According to SLOPD, typical alcohol violations in San Luis Obispo include driving under the influence, minors in possession of open containers, alcohol consumption in public and public intoxication.
In addition to the two new officers downtown, SLOPD also hired a full-time nighttime DUI officer last November from a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety. Officer Tim Koznek, who has been the SLOPD recipient of the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) award several years running, works during the nighttime hours Wednesday through Saturday night, when the statistics indicate the most of San Luis Obispo’s DUI-related incidents occur.
“The officer’s sole responsibility will be to patrol the areas where DUI-related arrests and collisions have historically taken place,” according to a SLOPD news release.
In his first week of deployment, Koznek made seven DUI arrests, 32 traffic stops, gave 10 drivers field sobriety tests, made two other criminal arrest (non-DUI), and cited three drivers for unlicensed/suspended/revoked driver’s licenses, according to SLOPD.
SLOPD has had an increase in DUI arrests since 2010 – with 213 in 2010, 242 in 2011, and 263 in 2012. DUI arrests are mostly traffic stops, Staley said, resulting in arrests of mixed demographics. There are no statistics determining how many Cal Poly students are arrested for DUI, but 55 percent of DUI arrests from 2009 to 2012 were of people between the ages of 18-25.
“Each DUI arrest is a potential tragedy averted,” SLOPD Chief Steve Gesell said in a statement. “We are thrilled to leverage grant funding in this way to make our streets safer.”
SLOPD hopes to renew the California Office of Traffic Safety grant this fall to keep a nighttime DUI officer deployed, with the possibility of continuing the grant in 2015 as well.
“The officer’s primary purpose is to hunt those that choose to endanger themselves and others by getting behind the wheel impaired,” Gesell said. “Hopefully knowledge of our SLOPD’s dedication in DUI enforcement will serve as a deterrent for some when the time comes to hand the keys to a sober driver.”