Not all Twitter users are announcing what they had for lunch or broadcasting the latest celebrity news. The Riverside, Illinois Police are tweeting every single alcohol-related arrest as it occurs. That includes DUI and zero tolerance arrests.
Police Chief Thomas Weitzel began this innovative use of social media in order to make the public aware of the scope of the drunk driving problem in Illinois. “I would hope that sharing of information in this way would serve to advise the public that DUI offenders are being arrested all over the greater Chicago area,” says Chief Weitzel.
Names are not used in the tweets — public shaming is not the point of the exercise. The tweets do include age, sex, hometown, location of the arrest, and the BAC (blood alcohol concentration), if available.
The Twitter feed also announces the dates and locations of DUI checkpoints, and alerts the public when the department intensifies DUI patrols.
“Drunk driving is too socially acceptable,” says Weitzel. “I have noticed that it is becoming much more common for my agency to have second-, third-, fourth-time DUI arrestees who are already driving on a suspended license.”
People are taking notice of the Riverside Police’s efforts. Weitzel recently received a Hero award from MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) for his work using social media to spread the anti-drunk driving message.
At LifeSafer we hope that people who read about so many DUI arrests will finally grasp the magnitude of the problem, and join the fight to prevent drunk driving. This means educating teens, choosing a designated driver when going out drinking, and acting responsibly as a host and not letting guests drive home while impaired. Drunk drivers are stopped one by one, by people who are informed and committed to keeping the roads safer.
It’s a lot to ask of a tweet, but it’s good that every channel of communication is being used by our resourceful public servants to get the message out. We salute Chief Weitzel and urge other police departments to follow Riverside’s excellent example.