In Chapel Hill, DWI arrests have increased in recent years.
There were 221 DWI arrests in Chapel Hill in 2013, while 2014 saw 227 and 2015 had 261. As of Sept. 20, 2016, there have been 159 DWI arrests.
In Carrboro, the trend is completely different.
In 2013, 128 DWI arrests were made. In 2014, Carrboro had 91 DWI arrests, and in 2015, there were 63.
Bars in the two towns said they follow the same basic practices to keep people safe.
Population could play a role in the contrasting trends. Chapel Hill has more than double Carrboro’s population — including more college students — and also has more drinking establishments.
Police turnover in Carrboro
Capt. Chris Atack of the Carrboro Police Department said a number of senior officers have retired since 2013. Lag time in hiring and training new officers is hard to avoid, he said.
“There were many promotions and new supervisors stepping into leadership roles,” Atack said. “Then we hired in newer officers who don’t have that experience. It takes time to get trained to get good at (spotting) DWIs.”
Atack said in 2015 alone, seven officers left the Carrboro Police Department. He also said they do not conduct DWI checkpoints.
“It’s really surprising,” Carrboro resident Mark Webster said about the lack of checkpoints. “Carrboro police are always sitting around, on (Hwy) 54, downtown. It just seems that there are lots around.”
Confronting alcohol in Chapel Hill
Alcohol enforcement is a priority for the Chapel Hill Police Department.
“Because of the things that happen because of drinking, we make it a priority,” said Lt. Josh Mecimore, spokesperson for the Chapel Hill police.
He said every year, the Chapel Hill police has operations to address selling alcohol to underage people, overselling and DWIs. He says these are part of a bigger traffic plan.
“Crashes involving alcohol are extremely violent and dangerous,” Mecimore said. “It’s important for us to do education and enforcement.”
When looking at the DWI arrest numbers specifically, he said there is not enough data to make a significant statement about any real trend.
Mecimore said another reason for the difference could be the greater number of drinking establishments in Chapel Hill versus Carrboro.
Preventing drunken driving
Bars in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have policies in place to prevent patrons from drinking and driving.
Chris Carini, Linda’s Bar and Grill owner, said their process is simple — if people act drunk, they stop serving them.
Jeff Wardwell, manager of Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery, said they follow the rules and regulations set by the Chapel Hill Police Department and Alcohol Law Enforcement.
“We’re always paying attention to people’s behaviors and how they’re acting, and if they’re acting drunk, we simply won’t serve them,” he said.
He said bartenders work with security staff to make sure everyone is safe.
Mac McAndrews, manager at 2nd Wind bar in Carrboro, said they have a cutoff policy for serving drinks.
She said there have been occasions when she has followed a drunk patron to the parking lot to make sure they did not drive away. She said she has also called cabs for people.
McAndrews said 2nd Wind has a good relationship with Townie Transportation, a local cab company.
“Anytime somebody needs to be picked up we give them a call,” she said.
For those drinking in Chapel Hill or Carrboro, options for getting home have expanded in the past few years.
In addition to certain Chapel Hill bus lines that run late into the night, Uber started operating in the area in June 2014 and Lyft in July 2016.
Evangeline George, a spokesperson for Uber Technologies Inc., did not specifically respond to questions about the rise in DWI arrests in Chapel Hill, but she confirmed that the company’s mission statement includes lowering DWI incidents, accidents and fatalities.
Raj Naik, the general manager for Uber North Carolina, said ridesharing services like Uber are changing the way people think about drinking and driving.
“We’ve seen again and again that when people have a reliable way to get home at the push of a button — no matter the time or place — they make safer choices,” Naik said.
Uber works with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to raise funds to fight drunk driving, according to its website.
“We will continue working to make sure students, residents and visitors in North Carolina know about the affordable transportation option Uber provides at the end of a night out,” Naik said.
City Editor Jane Little and staff writer Olivia Ross contributed reporting.