DPD

Denton County has the 10th highest number of DWI charges out of Texas’ 254 counties, according to a recent announcement from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Recent statistics from the Denton Police Department show that the number of drinking while intoxicated arrests in Denton this year has increased by 87% from the previous year, from 277 in 2018 to 519 so far in 2019.

Denton Assistant Police Chief Bobby Smith says these high numbers of arrests are benefiting the Denton community.

“When you see that No. 10 ranking, that’s a good thing,” Smith said. “And it’s a direct result of our department’s initiative towards higher levels of enforcement on DWI. That being said, there is still a lot of preventative work that can be done.”

This year, from January to September, the number of crashes relating to an inebriated driver is down 7% compared to the year before, while crashes that resulted in fatalities have gone down 60%.

“When Chief [Frank] Dixon came on last fall, he definitely wanted to push our DWI enforcement up,” Smith said. “From a public safety standpoint, you have to consider what in your community is causing people to lose their lives. We have a number of DWI deaths, so our mission is to reduce DWI-related deaths and injuries.”

In efforts to further reduce these numbers, Denton police will be initiating a campaign called “DWI-Free Denton” that aims to inform Denton residents and students that driving while intoxicated is intolerable. DWI-Free Denton will be a five-year plan that’s focused on maximizing the department’s efforts in prevention, enforcement and prosecution.

“It’s not just about enforcement,” Smith said. “Our enforcement numbers are very important, but you can’t enforce your way completely out of this problem. You have to be preventative, and we’ll continue to promote these initiatives to get that message out there.”

With several bars near campus, the University of North Texas Police Department has also seen high numbers of DWI-related arrests. In the last 60 days, there have been nearly 40 DWI charges on or near the UNT campus. UNT police are taking precautions to try to prevent such arrests and promote safety.

“We’re partnering with the Denton Police Department and their DWI-Free campaign,” UNT police Sgt. Kevin Crawford said. “We proactively patrol the area and if we see someone exhibiting signs of intoxication, even walking to a car, we can get involved before they get behind the wheel.”

Both Denton and UNT police are also encouraging students to contact Lyft or Uber to get a safe ride home.

“In today’s time, there’s really no excuse for driving while intoxicated,” Smith said. “There’s always another way to get home.”

SOPHIE MONCALEANO can be reached via Twitter at

@sophieclarinet.

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