News outlets continue to report a spate of DUI wrecks in the Carolinas. Contrary to the narrative spun by senior law enforcement officials, ride-sharing apps like UBER and Lyft have not eliminated the dangers of alcohol-related wrecks and deaths in Charlotte.
Drunk driving fatalities have increased while the number of arrests and criminal charges have dropped, if not fallen off the cliff.
That’s not something you just “notice” without taking affirmative steps to remedy the problem. Enforcing the NC DWI laws is not a priority to senior leadership at CMPD.
It’s more than a short-term lag taking place over the past five years. Indeed, DWI charges and arrests for alcohol-related offenses have fallen precipitously since 2003, when there were more than 4,000 arrests in Mecklenburg County.
Since 2014, Drunk driving accidents have steadily increased in an inversely proportional basis, leading to the very real and logical conclusion that the less the DWI laws are enforced, the more people die due to drunken driving.
Why are DWI arrests in Charlotte down?
To be clear, the Charlotte DWI task force is not at fault. Of the approximate 1,500 police officers on the CMPD force, there are only six officers assigned to focus almost solely on DWI arrests.
We’ve all heard the saying, ‘Put your money where your mouth is.’ Money talks, the rest walks – Bill Powers, Charlotte DWI Lawyer
According to recent population reports by the US Census Bureau, 1,076,837 people live in Mecklenburg County.
That breaks down to a 179,472:1 citizen to task force officer ratio. According to the Charlotte 2018 Fiscal Year Budget, which was estimated to be a staggering 2.39 billion dollars, the Charlotte City Council and Mayor designed public safety as the top budget priority:
In response to this guidance, 112 new public safety positions are included in the FY 2018 budget: 91 in police personnel (62 sworn, 24 civilian, four Aviation officers and one converted temporary employee). This completes the Police Chief’s phased request of 125 additional officers beginning in FY 2017.
Charlotte taxpayers allocated an additional $4,000,000 towards improving “public safety.” Despite that, crime statistics, including impaired driving and alcohol-related collisions and fatalities, have reached disturbing levels.
In the billions with a “Capital B” budget, almost $262,000,000 (262 Million Dollars) is expended on police in Charlotte.
According to Glassdoor.com, the average salary of a CMPD officer is $48,000, meaning the total DWI task force salary for six officers, being generous in estimating, is likely somewhere in the range of $300,000 to $400,000.
That is 0.00114504% to 0.00152672% of the annual expenditure the City of Charlotte pays CMPD. That’s also 1/1,000th of the budget, indicating the level of importance, or lack thereof, in enforcing the DUI laws.
Given the DWI Task Force is traditionally responsible for a substantially disproportionate percentage of arrests and impaired driving charges countywide, it’s a truly remarkable, if not disturbing metric. The officers dedicated to DWI enforcement in Charlotte are doing they’re jobs and then some.
In contrast, the starting salary for North Carolina State Highway Patrol officers (State Troopers) is $34,000, with an approximate cap of $52,000 after about seven years of service. One would be remiss in failing to note that Glassdoor.com also reports the annual salary for UBER drivers in Charlotte is $40,338 per year.
To be fair, there are other costs associated with the maintenance and upkeep of the DWI task force.
Assuming an absurd miscalculation of the true costs of maintaining enhanced impaired driving enforcement, would it be unreasonable for that budget item to be increased to $10,000,000 of the $262,000,000 given to CMPD (.038% of the budget)?
As stated, the lack of DWI enforcement has nothing to do with the DWI Task Force and/or those officers assigned the insurmountable task of administering that special unit within the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.
President Harry S. Truman was famous for saying, “The buck stops here.” The lack of DWI law enforcement in Mecklenburg County falls squarely on the shoulders of the Chief of Police Kerr Putney, who took the mantle of responsibility on June 29, 2015.
In large measure, the substantial, if not jaw-dropping decline in DWI enforcement in Charlotte-Mecklenburg has taken place during his tenure at the helm. The buck stops with Chief Putney.
North Carolina Drunk Driving Statistics – MADD Report
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD):
- In 2017 there were 354 Drunk Driving Deaths
- DWI accounts for 24% of all Traffic Fatalities
MADD rates North Carolina as 9th in the nation for “drunk driving” fatalities.