Everyone’s a suspect

On Saturday, while thousands of red-decked revelers invaded Reno’s downtown streets for the Reno Santa Pub Crawl—many carrying open containers between drinking establishments, and many well over limits that could be publicly described as intoxicated—officers from the Reno and Sparks Police Departments, Washoe County Sheriff deputies and troopers from the Nevada Highway Patrol conducted a DUI checkpoint on Kietzke Lane between S. McCarran Boulevard and Neil Road.

The checkpoint ran from 5 p.m.-11 p.m., and some 3,000 travelers in 1,843 automobiles were questioned. After the initial stop, 31 individuals were detained for further screening, which resulted in nine arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (Five were for alcohol; four were for drugs.)

In the random sweep, there were another 116 citations issued, including nine displaying fictitious plates or driver’s license violations; 24 expired registrations; 20 no insurance; eight equipment violations; 27 seatbelt violations, and one failure to stop for a stop sign. There were also 27 warnings issued.

One downtown bar owner asked, “Why would any reasonable [officer] stop cars on Kietzke when they know everyone downtown is drunk? You couldn’t get a drink downtown because every bar was packed.

“The Santa Crawl is like Hot August Nights, when for a week, the police are looking in the opposite direction of where the people are driving drunk. And you know they are, because that’s what the event’s about. So, why would you set up a DUI checkpoint on Kietzke? Because you don’t want to arrest the people who make the downtown businesses money.”

He also said that this is the first year when the majority of people participating in the Santa Crawl appeared to be from out of town.

Reno Police Department spokesman on the DUI checkpoint Sgt. Jim Stegmaier said the Santa Pub Crawl was irrelevant to the selection of where the checkpoint was sited. The goal of the checkpoints is not simply to catch drunk drivers but to raise the community’s awareness of the issue so that people will choose not to drive drunk.

“Our checkpoint had nothing whatsoever to do with that Santa Crawl,” he said. “We do try to strategically place them, but if we really wanted to catch [drunk drivers], we’d do them on Virginia Street, for example, or like on Fourth Street coming out of the Silver Legacy. Just catch people off-guard. … We still got very high numbers. We try to pick a place that’s going to have enough traffic but not too much. We try not to totally impact traffic. That Kietzke Lane one was a total surprise to us. Usually a DUI checkpoint averages two to three, maybe four DUIs, and this one we had nine. And out of the nine, four were drugs.”

Many people are familiar with the breathalyzer, which analyzes the amount of alcohol in a person’s system, but there are newer technologies for the detection of drug impairment.

“When we contact the drivers, we thank them for wearing the seatbelt,” said Stegmaier. “It’s usually at that point we notice whether there’s impairment. … For example, there was one guy, when they gave him the breath test on scene, he only blew .016. We have a drug test that we can give in the field where they use DNA swabs on the inside of their mouth, and it picks it up. We get a really, really quick [result as to] what type of drug it is they’re on. So we’re really looking for impairment.”