The ALERT team frequently focuses on weekends, when DWIs occur most often. About 75 percent of DWI arrests in 2013 were made on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, according to the data.
The ALERT team also coordinates with Alcohol Law Enforcement and other agencies in Orange County for education and enforcement efforts, Mecimore said.
“They teach bartenders what to look for in people being over-served,” Mecimore said. “A bartender has the responsibility, if a person is appreciably impaired, to say, ‘I can’t serve you anymore.’”
Chapel Hill police officer Stephen Seagroves said alcohol education has also helped to inform Chapel Hill youth of the dangers of driving impaired.
He said the Crash Investigation/Traffic Enforcement Team, another recent addition to the department, offers educational programs to high school students, incoming college students, fraternities and sororities.
Mark Geercken, of the department’s Community Services Unit, said officers encourage students to make smart decisions by talking about the costs of an arrest.
“You spend $8 on a cab — that’s better than a $10,000 DWI,” Geercken said. “A lot of times talking about money changes people’s minds on why not to drink and drive.”
Chapel Hill police officer Drew Cabe said the town has plenty of options for transportation and some of the recent transportation changes have made a positive impact.
“There’s no excuse in this town that people can’t get home safe or feel the need to drive with all the taxis, bus transit, walking or safe rides,” Cabe said.
Last year, the town rolled out its plan for flat-rate taxis. The regulation set a flat rate between $6 and $8 for an area that extends to a 1.5-mile radius around the Chapel Hill business district.
Mecimore said the regulation was implemented because taxis were charging intoxicated bar-hoppers more money for a ride.
“It was part of an effort to make it easier for students and others who come to town and drink to find their way back to their hotel or dorm,” Mecimore said.
Chapel Hill also conducts two DWI checkpoints per year on weekends, Seagroves said.
Mecimore said the department collaborates with the N.C. State Highway Patrol, Carrboro Police Department and UNC Department of Public Safety to publicize the checkpoints.
“We put the information out to the local media and sometimes on social media as well,” Mecimore said. “For some people, it serves as a deterrent.”
Cabe said he hopes the decrease in DWI’s will continue and said police will continue their heightened enforcement and education efforts.
“Folks have to realize that when you sign for your license, the state is granting you a privilege to drive, it isn’t a right,” Cabe said.
“If you are going to be that irresponsible and go out and party and then be stupid enough to get behind a weapon and drive, then that’s exactly why we are out there.”