UP adds more DUI checkpoints

While on patrol during the first week of class, University Police Sgt. Martin King noticed a Jeep Cherokee drive onto the sidewalk outside the entrance of the Greek Village on Maple Drive.

When he walked up to the driver, King said, he could smell the alcohol on the driver’s breath.  After conducting a sobriety test, King arrested the driver, a 20-year-old male USF student, for driving under the influence (DUI).

To combat drunken driving, UP is making more similar arrests by increasing the number of DUI checkpoints on campus.

UP officials have made 15 DUI arrests since the beginning of this semester.

“The purpose of the sobriety checkpoint is education to the public,” King said. “We hope that people make better decisions by seeing that there are law enforcement efforts out there to curtail DUIs and that they will make better decisions by either getting a designated driver or making other arrangements.”

King said UP plans to conduct upward of 25 on-campus DUI checkpoints this year. That means students can expect to see around two to four checkpoints a month.

King said UP Chief Thomas Longo has been passionate about DUI enforcement since joining the department.

“Under his guidance, we started doing checkpoints on campus, which was a first for this department,” King said.

UP works alongside Parking Services to notify students 24 to 48 hours in advance about upcoming checkpoints by posting signs where the checkpoint is scheduled to take place.

Checkpoint notifications are also made available on UP’s Web site, in press releases and through e-mail via the UP listserv.

King said UP changes the location of the checkpoints based on traffic statistics and where UP has noticed an increase in DUI arrests. Two areas frequently checked are Holly Drive, west of Sycamore, and North USF Palm Drive, south of Fletcher.

However, Maple Drive south of Fletcher between the Greek Village and UP department is one spot that sees a significant number of DUIs, King said.

UP Patrol Sgt. Tom Bobrowski attributes the high number of on-campus DUIs to drunk drivers cutting through campus.

“Now, we’re able to take proactive measures to seek out impaired drivers,” Bobrowski said.

The last DUI checkpoint on Maple Drive was held on Aug. 29 from 2 a.m to 4 a.m.  King said about 20 cars came through the checkpoint and UP made only one DUI arrest.

Upon arrest, UP takes DUI suspects to the Orient Road Jail, where their breath is tested once again, King said.  Florida drivers must comply with law enforcement if asked to give a breath test.

Bond, he said, usually costs between $300 and $500.

Bobrowski said there is no correlation between increased DUIs on Maple Drive and residents in the Greek Village.  He said UP has arrested both Greek and non-Greek students there.

“It’s more about the local establishments targeting USF students and not a lot of people using their options wisely,” Bobrowski said.

Student opinions about the DUI checkpoints are mixed.

Rick Cocchieri lives in Cypress, one of the residence halls on Maple Drive, and is supportive of the checkpoints.

“So many people cross this road and we don’t want anyone to get hurt,” the freshman biology major said.

Cameo Ewing, a sophomore majoring in physical therapy who lives across from Cypress in the Greek Village, said she does not feel any safer because of increased DUI checkpoints.

“I think it scares people to come back on campus,” Ewing said.

“It’s good to have designated drivers,” she said, “but sometimes it’s bad because kids will just end up staying over on campus because they can’t drive back to their apartments, which are farther away.”