Successful New Mexico DWI Program-National Criminal Justice Association

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Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome to DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes. We’re doing another show with the National Criminal Justice Association as we examine exemplary programs throughout the country. The National Criminal Justice Association works with corrections, law enforcement, people throughout the criminal justice system to examine and to bring to light some of the better programs throughout the country. The program today is “100 days and nights of summer,” and we’re going to be talking to the deputy secretary of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and we’re also going to be talking to Captain Greg Toya with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, Division of State Police, and we’re going to be talking about alcohol related fatalities, the fact that they’re down and down dramatically in the state of New Mexico. Ladies and Gentlemen, we thank you for all of your comments, we really appreciate the fact that you let us know how you feel about the program, suggestions about the programs, criticisms, complaints, and accolades, so keep those comments coming in at media – M-E-D-I-A – .csosa – C-S-O-S-A – .gov, or simply search on your internet search engine for D.C. Public Safety. We respond individually to every inquiry, every comment that you make, and we appreciate them. So on with the show, “100 Days and Nights of Summer,” again, introducing Deputy Secretary Paul Cook of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and Capt. Greg Toya of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety State Police. Again, through the auspices of the National Criminal Justice Association, to talk about “100 Days and Nights of Summer,” and to Paul Cook and Greg Toya, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Paul Cook/Greg Toya: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right, gentlemen, I am a former Maryland State Trooper, you and I, we’re talking, we were talking before the program, and you know, the thing that bothers me about alcohol related fatalities is that we, in the criminal justice system have got to climb into these cars and pull people out. We make the death notifications, we grab the minister or the rabbi or the imam and knock on somebody’s door at 3:00 in the morning to tell them that their loved one has passed due to an alcohol related fatality, and we in the system get very emotional about it, yet I don’t see that emotion carried by general society, so first of all, the issue of alcohol related fatalities, we take it extraordinarily seriously, does the rest of society take it extraordinarily seriously? I guess that’s the question we’re going to start with. Greg, do you want to give a shot at that?

Greg Toya: Well, I think that is a case, and I think that it takes the efforts of law enforcement, the judicial system, of course various counseling groups out there, public health service, to bring the horrific stats and data to the public’s attention as it relates to injuries and deaths and how that touches individual families, and I think once the public starts to understand the horrific scenes that are the result of a DWI related fatality, it’ll eventually mean something to all levels of the general public, and hopefully start to bring down those horrific numbers nationally, and of course, here in New Mexico, I think it has worked.

Len Sipes: The first fatality I ever saw was a cadet riding with a trooper on Route 40 in the state of Maryland, where with a decapitation, and I won’t go into the full details, but you know, as a young man, that affected me, that affected me very deeply, and the truck driver who hit them as they pulled out in front of them, the driver was drunk, you know, it’s, that’s something that stays with you for a long time, and then you tell other people that you were just involved in a fatality, in fact, two fatalities, in fact, a decapitation, and their response would be a hearty chuckle. So once again, we experience it firsthand, we notify the families, I’ve just never been convinced that the larger society understands what’s actually going on out there. Paul, do you want to take a shot at that one?

Paul Cook: Well, you know, I wanted to say that I think that the public education is an extremely important part here, and the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers started out doing a lot of advertising, we here in New Mexico do advertising, and we have posters and billboards, basically the motto is “You drink, you drive, you lose.” And it’s focused on just that, the drunk drivers, the inebriated individuals who decide to get behind the wheel, and we settle up, so these kind of people understand, this is not a laughing matter. You get caught, you’re going to jail, end of story. And it has really, I think, started to get people to think, you know, who’s the designated driver, or do I actually need that second drink, or whatever before they leave and drive home.

Len Sipes: It’s a very complicated societal issue, but one of the things we in the criminal justice system are responsible for are catching them and to reduce the amount of DWI accidents. When you started this program, Greg, New Mexico was 3rd in the country, and you’re now 17th in the country for DWI related accidents and fatalities, that is a huge decrease, and over what time period are we talking about, and how did you do it?

Greg Toya: Well, I think if you compare the 2006 statistics with current stats, typically during that time period, our statistics go down by about 15%. There’s a number of components, we’ve all been doing that, and again, it’s not only the state police doing that, it’s all the agencies working together that implement DWI checkpoints, DWI patrols, we’re concentrating parts of the roads that are historically high in DWI related accidents. In addition to DWI, though, we issue a lot of other enforcement citations along the lines of keeping the general public safe: seat belt citation, child restraint citations, and various other things, but we’ve increased our DWI arrests from a little over 2,000 during the 100 days and nights of summer every year over the last 3 years. We’ve had, again, saturation patrols, 140 a year during that period of time, that’s a lot of work to do, and we like to think of it as we bring public awareness into this whole issue, bring on a lot of other law enforcement agencies to help out, we’re out there in the general public’s eye, and it’s kind of along the lines of what Secretary Cook said that it’s a matter of educating the public of its DWI problem and the horrific results of DWI related accidents.

Len Sipes: I can’t remember a lot of things in my life, but I can remember those death notifications as if they were yesterday.

Greg Toya: Oh, they’re horrible!

Len Sipes: I can remember the look on a woman’s face, or the various face, because it’s always the male, you know, who ended up dying, I don’t know what sort of societal statement that is, but generally speaking, it was grab the priest, grab the minister, go knock on the door, and that look in that woman’s eyes is just profound, I can’t even remember for sure what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I can remember vividly the look in that woman’s eyes, and again, I probably will bring this up throughout the program, you know, this whole concept of drinking and driving is something that I think society takes more seriously, but not seriously enough. I still think that it’s just, I can’t say that it’s a joke on the part of most people, but I think way too many people drink and drive, and I don’t think people, I think people’s perceptions and abilities to drive are affected by one drink. I know that doesn’t constitute the legal limit in New Mexico or any other part of the country, but even one drink is enough to affect you profoundly.

Greg Toya: It is, and it’s a matter of impairment, it’s not a matter of maybe staggering or not being able to communicate verbally and talk and coordination, but it’s impairment: your reaction time is greatly affected, your depth perception is greatly affected, and when you take all those things, and you multiply them by the speed of a vehicle, particularly on the interstates, your reaction time is really cut down in half, and you know, we talk about these really horrific accidents, when you have speeds in excess of 60-70 miles and hour, and they collide with somebody, well you just take the speed of two vehicles, add that speed, and it’s 150, 160 mile an hour impact crash, and like you said, when you have to show up at those accident scenes and decide what body belongs to what vehicle, and then look for ID and start to think about how are we going to tell the family, and again, like you said, getting a hold of a priest or somebody to make that a little bit more comprehendible when you approach families, geez, it’s not something a law enforcement officer looks forward to doing, especially repeatedly, repeatedly in their career.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I had, in one case, where a guy hit a bridge abutment, and he was drunk, pulling body parts out of a tree. I mean that’s, you know, I understand that it’s legal to drink. I drink! I’m not, the issue here, I don’t think, is drinking, the issue is drinking and driving. I don’t think the issue is not driving drunk, I think the issue is having any alcohol at all and getting behind the wheel of a car, so that’s just my political editorializing, you guys can feel free to disagree with me, and I drink! I do! I simply don’t drive when I drink, period! I don’t have one beer, if I’m driving on my motorcycle, I drink coke!

Greg Toya: Correct, and I think that many, many times, particularly after a long day’s work, or after a person is exhausted, and that one drink has a much more profound physical effect, that one drink might be just enough to have you impaired, again, to get you likely to be involved in that motor vehicle accident.

Len Sipes: Absolutely, absolutely. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking to deputy secretary Paul Cook of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and we’re talking also on the phone, Capt. Greg Toya, he is with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and with the New Mexico State Police. When you go to the show notes, I’ll include contact points for the National Criminal Justice Association, and Paul Cook and to Greg Toya, and I’m sure that they have a website that relates to all of this. Okay, so fatalities went down dramatically in New Mexico, you have “100 Days and Nights of Summer, which I’m assuming is this widespread law enforcement, not just in New Mexico State Police, but as you’ve said, allied law enforcement agencies, everybody together doing the checks, doing the roadblocks, doing what is necessary to reduce drunk driving in the state of New Mexico, you’re talking about public outreach, and one of the things that we’re doing now is part of public outreach, and this show is heard all over the world, so it’s not just New Mexico that’s going to be hearing this, but people from throughout the world. So what, in terms of all of this, is the magic ingredient that brought down the number of DWI accidents and deaths in New Mexico from 3rd in the country to 17th in the country?

Paul Cook: Well, let me just give you some stats from our “100 Days and Nights of Summer in 2007.”

Len Sipes: Okay.

Paul Cook: Len, from June 1st through September 8th, the total citations and arrests during that time was 89,926. Now if you realize that every one of those people that got a citation are going to be talking to their neighbor or somebody and saying, you know, dang, I got cited for A, B, or C, and that spreads the word, because Capt. Toya said we had 2,216 DWI arrests, we conducted, actually 232 checkpoints. Now that’s not just the state police, that’s throughout all law enforcement across the state.

Len Sipes: Understood.

Paul Cook: But the saturation patrols he talked about, we conducted 714. Now again, New Mexico is a fairly large state. We have 121,000 square miles here, so [overlapping voices] 714 is a lot, but it doesn’t cover everything.

Len Sipes: Well, New Mexico’s a drop dead gorgeous state, number one, and you know, there are magazines devoted to driving in New Mexico. I remember reading them as a child, and just looking at these wide open spaces, for those of us on the east coast living in the Baltimore Washington Metropolitan Area. Sometimes I’m extremely envious, especially when I’m on my motorcycle, so the point is that New Mexico’s a pretty spread out state, I know it has its metropolitan areas, but you know, you probably have parts of the state that patrol potential is limited.

Paul Cook: You can drive an hour and a half and not see anything in some places.

Len Sipes: Right, so how do you patrol those sort of areas? How do you make it stick in those wide open spaces?

Greg Toya: Well, that’s what we were talking about our saturation patrols, is we designate a handful of officers to patrol a stretch of road where maybe typically most law enforcement will not be out there, and during that period of time, when you have a handful of officers that are mandated to patrol that particular stretch at a particular time on a particular day of the week, it has a very positive effect, because if you look at your information, and if you’re having a problem with accidents, DWI arrests, things along those lines, you can strategically place your officers, so like the secretary said, there are places here in New Mexico that are very rural, more or less lightly patrolled, so when we do these projects, we figure out where we need to concentrate on, and as a result of that, we’ve had some very positive results.

Len Sipes: Now you also – go ahead Paul.

Paul Cook: I was going to say, that’s also working, I want everybody to keep in mind that’s working with all other law enforcement agencies, because some agencies are strapped with manpower, equipment, training, knowledge, and we try and include everybody to get on the same bandwagon and help, so it’s a unified enforcement project.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now I represent a community corrections agency, a federal community corrections agency in Washington D.C., so I’ve got to ask this question, are you working with your correctional counterparts, either the department of corrections or the division of corrections and parole and probation authorities?

Greg Toya: We are. We do work with them. On this particular issue, it’s a little bit after the fact is, if in fact somebody is arrested and charged with a DWI incident, when we do our homework on these types of cases, we’ll find out if in fact somebody is on probation, parole, and at that point in time, corrections is contacted, and then we do follow-up work with the conditions of probation, parole, we don’t just put them through the judicial system, we work with parole, corrections, and we try and get them the education that they need in order to complete the judicial side of this incident, but try to get them to counseling, and the health and the education they need so that hopefully, they won’t become a repeated offender.

Len Sipes: One of the things that we have here in Washington DC is we have like 3,000 people on our caseload, and we’re pretty tough on them. We provide individual counseling and group counseling to the people who are involved in the drinking and driving program here, but we have a lot of contact with them, we do a lot of surprise visits, we do a lot of enforcement, but at the same time, we try to get them the treatment that they need, a lot of these individuals, I understand somebody getting behind the wheel of a car, and they believe it’s a mistake, and it’s never happened before, it’ll never happen again, but some of these people end up being violators 2 and 3 times. Some of these people have serious issues with alcohol, alcoholism and drugs, and quite frankly, they need the treatment, and part of what we do, beyond provide enforcement, is we provide the treatment component as well, and I think that that’s a pretty serious and necessary part to all of this, do you agree?

Greg Toya: Absolutely agree. It’s not only a law enforcement issue, it’s a society issue, and you can’t arrest enough people to make a positive impact. It has to go hand in hand with education, and once you start to educate, it has to start, I should say firstly, at a very young age. Most kids have alcohol available to them when they’re 6 years old. 6 years old! So we don’t wait until they’re in middle school or junior high or high school, you’ve got to get into the elementary school setting to start to plant that seed that tells young kids, alcohol and it’s effects are devastating. And you’re exactly right, we try to do that at a very young age, we try and make the connection, alcohol and drugs combined or separately have the same horrific devastating effects.

Len Sipes: Yeah. Go ahead, Paul, please.

Paul Cook: I’d like to add that part of our probationary process in New Mexico right now has got a mission interlock device requirement, so –

Len Sipes: That’s a great idea. Explain what that is, Paul.

Paul Cook: Well, when a person is convicted of a DWI, they are required to get an ignition interlock device installed on their car, and that is basically a mini-breathalyzer, they have to blow into this before it releases the ignition for them to start their car. It works very well, and there are some pretty severe penalties for bypassing it by having someone else blow into the device for them. So just another way that we can keep track or try and inhibit those repeat offenders from going back behind the wheel while they’re – let me start over again – keep them from getting behind the wheel while they are intoxicated.

Len Sipes: We’ve even gone so far as to stick GPS devices, global positioning devices, and we’ve gone so far as to basically say, stay home, you know, you can go to work, you can come back, but after that, you’ve got to stay home. So that way, that’s another little trick, it doesn’t matter whether they have, and I totally agree, by the way, with the locking devices where you have to blow into it to check your alcohol level, but some of these people are of such danger to themselves, to their families, and larger society, they’re just told, stay home. So in terms of summarizing, gentlemen, where do we go? What do we want the public to do, because certainly the good citizens of New Mexico, and again, I emphasize the beautiful, lovely, state of New Mexico, you know, they’re going to hear this, and hopefully they’re going to take it to heart, but you’re going to be talking to people in Australia, England, Canada, and other countries throughout the world, for that matter, and that’s one of the advantages of doing these programs via the internet. What do we say to them? What do we say to larger society in terms of alcohol and drinking and driving? I mean, the obvious one is, don’t do it!

Paul Cook: That’s correct, I agree with don’t do it, but I also, again, you know, reiterate my feeling, personal feeling is the constant and continual reminding by public education, be it through TV, billboards, handouts, mailers, it has to continually be reinforced. Number one, you drink, you drive, you lose; but number two, you are so severely impaired when you’re drinking, you really are operating a deadly weapon, you’re not operating a motor vehicle.

Len Sipes: I totally agree.

Greg Toya: I agree, and essentially, the really important question, and that is, don’t do it. Most people want to know why: why can’t I do it? And I think that it’s incumbent upon letting everybody know, and when I say everybody, it’s starting again with the younger generation, high school, college, the professional section, and all the way up with people that are older and sharing these horrific scenes with them and showing them the results of consuming alcohol, whether it’s at a party, a restaurant, sports events, wherever it may be, because all those different venues have the same results, and people need to realize that, even in a socializing environment, that one or two drinks of alcohol could be just enough to have you impaired when you get behind the wheel. So I think we need to continue educating the horrific results of drinking and driving, we need to continue funding law enforcement agencies around the country and the world so that we have enough officers out there to enforce DWI laws, and we also need to have a judicial component that’s going to do its part to follow through with either convicting and hopefully monitoring these individuals as they’re kicked out of the judicial system and transitioned into probation and parole.

Len Sipes: Yep.

[overlapping voices]

Greg Toya: – of all those groups.

Paul Cook: And let me add, the one other thing we need to add in there is the legislative group. We need to have our politicians fully educated and aware of what we’re doing so we get their support, and they’re the ones that give us the funding, and we need the funding and the political support to make any of these things happen.

Greg Toya: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s, once again, I think, a larger, I think we all agree that there’s this larger societal issue, yet I constantly come across, either personal examples or societal examples of people who just don’t understand that giving, allowing the sun to go down to a resort town in the state of Maryland and allowing them to take alcohol down with them on the premise that they not consume that, and I’m talking about people under the age of 21, on the premise that they not consume it while they’re in the car, I think that’s playing with fire, some people are going to think that’s going way too far, I don’t believe it’s going way too far, it just strikes me that our politicians really need to understand that the funding needs to be there, the larger society really needs to understand that, you know, I just wish I had a whole bunch of people along as, in my days in the state police, of crawling through the superstructure of a car to get at somebody who’s mangled in that car, and who’s drunk, and try to save their lives, and you come out of it with their blood on your uniform, I mean, I don’t know how graphic to get with this, but that’s our experience, that’s all the experience that we’ve had in the law enforcement community, you don’t forget any of that stuff, and I just sometimes wish somehow, some way, you could share that experience directly with the larger public, somehow some way, I think that they would fully understand what drinking and driving truly means.

Greg Toya: Absolutely. I think along the line of sight, the smell, and you can back me on this, I’m sure, but pulling up to an accident, the smell of gasoline, oil, the smell of blood mixed with alcohol, it’s a horrific smell that seems to stay with you –

Len Sipes: Forever!

Greg Toya: – for your entire life. Forever. And if you’re at a restaurant, or if loved ones, and you reminisce about that, it’s like it happened that very morning!

Len Sipes: That’s right!

Greg Toya: And it does not go away. It does not go away.

Len Sipes: I can smell it now!

Greg Toya: Oh, yeah! I can remember picking up a toddler at an accident, and you know, the only thing holding that little child’s body together was his skin! It was like picking up a 10lb bag of potatoes in a bag!

Len Sipes: And I think –

Greg Toya: The result of a DWI related incident.

Len Sipes: Yep, I can, both of us, all three of us could just go on endlessly about this, and so I think we’re pretty much leaving it there and close. Deputy Secretary Paul Cook, it’s been a real pleasure, deputy secretary of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and Capt. Greg Toya, again, New Mexico Department of Public Safety with the New Mexico State Police, talking about the “100 Days and Nights of Summer within the notes of the program, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll give you contact points for both the deputy secretary and Capt. Toya, and website addresses to gain more information about the “100 Days and Nights of Summer.” Ladies and Gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, I am your host Len Sipes, I want you all to have a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders, domestic violence, anger management, corrections, high-risk offenders, GPS, women offenders, DWI.

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