Extra DWI police patrols planned for Concord area this weekend

  • A U.S. Border Patrol agent checks a car on the I-93 southbound lane on Wednesday, September 28, 2017 south of the Route 175 exit south of Lincoln. Geoff Forester

Monitor staff
Published: 5/23/2019 3:57:30 PM

State police will be staffing additional troopers to look for impaired drivers this weekend in the greater Concord area.

New Hampshire State Police Troop D announced Wednesday that the patrols would take place this weekend. The five extra troopers’ shifts will be paid for through the state and federal grants.

State police Lt. Michael Commerford said his troop has been using the “saturation patrols” to look for impaired drivers in lieu of sobriety checkpoints, which he said were ineffective in making DWI arrests. The troop staged its last sobriety checkpoint on Sept. 16, 2017 in Bow.

“They really haven’t proved to be successful for us,” he said.

A Monitor investigation in 2017 found that of the more than 85,000 people who had passed through a checkpoint from 2006 to 2016 in New Hampshire, the share of operators accused of drunken driving hadn’t exceeded 1% of the total traffic stops. In 2010, when state police checked 14,226 vehicles – more than any other year – 52 people were accused of driving while intoxicated, or 0.37%.

Commerford said he believed social media also played a big part in the troop’s low arrests. The troop previously held its checkpoints on Route 4 in Chichester and in Bow. It didn’t take long for the news of a checkpoint to spread, he said.

“People would say to us, ‘Yeah I heard about this on social media,’ ” he said. Commerford said that news was welcome, however, because he said people were hopefully choosing to not drive impaired.

Commerford noted other troops may still use checkpoints. Some troops, like Carroll County’s Troop E, will deploy them around traditionally busy weekends like Laconia Motorcycle Week.

The state’s police departments have used the technique to block off stretches of roads and briefly detain drivers to determine their sobriety since 2003, Monitor archives show. The department has said the checkpoints are a useful tool to combat drunk driving. A checkpoint can result in dozens of detainments in one night.

The practice has long been controversial. Opponents have said the practice is unconstitutional and violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.

But the Supreme Court has long made an exception for DWI checkpoints in the name of public safety.

That reasoning helped kill a New Hampshire bill last year that would have banned the practice.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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