Since January of last year, Bend police have arrested 666 people for driving under the influence, despite a variety of efforts to curb the problem. "We're averaging about 40 DUI arrests a month," Lt. Nick Parker said Thursday. That's more than one a day.
While police say they don't arrest someone every day, they usually make up for it on weekends. There were 12 this Memorial Day weekend alone in Bend. Four were arrested in Redmond and one in Prineville on DUII charges. Police say often times, they pull people over for DUII for a second or even third time. Early Thursday, Paul Akehurst was stopped for his sixth violation (four of which occurred earlier in Missouri, the fifth in Deschutes County in March). A DUII defense attorney says not all of these people are repeat offenders, though. In fact, "most people are not repeat offenders," said Michael Romano, president of Romano Law PC. Romano said he has prosecuted and defended DUII offenders. His job now has changed the way he looks at people charged with DUIIs, the faces behind which are surprising. "Marines, firefighters, sons of chiefs of police," Romano said. But one time drunk behind the wheel is all it takes to make a deadly turn. "The repeat offenders are definitely concerning, because you have to figure out what to do with them," Romano said. After getting three DUIIs in Oregon, your license is revoked. That isn't enough to stop everyone, though. The answer could lie with technology. Options include car Breathalyzers or, in extreme cases, ankle monitors that check blood alcohol 24/7. "I think it prevents people from committing a future crime," Romano said. But it will cost you. A device for a car is $40 a month. An ankle monitor is $12 a day.
And technology can only go so far. "How do you get them to switch their paradigm and view drinking in a different way, to view sobriety in a different way?" Romano said.