Should Police Hang Around Bars and Wait for a DUI?

fresno-bar-watch-police-carFresno, California seems to have a drinking problem – one survey put their drivers at the 15th worst in the nation, thanks to its drunk driving.

The reaction of the Fresno police is to revive a controversial “bar watch” program in which undercover officers go to bars and wait for drunk people to emerge and get into their cars – as so many inevitably do.

Catch DUIs at the Source

There is a logic to the Fresno bar watch. Why wait till you see a drunk driver veering on the street – or worse, until he or she causes a crash – when you can stop them before they have a chance to risk their lives or the lives of others?

The point of the program is to “send a strong message” that drunk driving is not permitted in Fresno, according to news reports.

The Best Use of Manpower?

There are those who are not crazy about the Fresno bar watch, including people who run businesses that depend upon liquor sales. Like most major metropolitan areas in the state, Fresno has a variety of crime problems, and some people think that having officers staked out in front of the corner bar does not help address them.

Nevertheless, drunk driving is a crime, and one that takes some 900 Californian lives every year. It injures many times that, and also costs everyone in the state because of higher taxes and insurance rates.

California’s new ignition interlock law, which takes effect in 2019, will represent a more sweeping use of both manpower and technology to fight drunk driving. The law will require that all drunk drivers install an ignition interlock, a device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Meanwhile, we think the program is a good idea. Think of it as a very concentrated sobriety checkpoint. As long as bars have parking lots, drunk driving will be a possibility, and it’s not a bad idea to have a police officer parked nearby to even the score.