While his chief deputy totals the number of DUI arrests so far this year, Sheriff Billy Sollie leans back in his chair and affords himself a moment to think.
So far this year there have been 210 DUI arrests in Lauderdale County. Sollie mulled over another number — 275 — which represents the total number of DUI arrests a year ago. The conclusion he finally reaches is 2010 will be a banner year for arrests in this category. Not a very good thought, he said.
"Now taking into consideration we have more deputies who are trained to deal with impaired drivers, that number would naturally go up in my estimation," Sollie said. "Still, the number of DUI arrests so far this year is disheartening at the very least."
LCSD Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun, getting figures from the department's DUI Enforcement Department, said just over the recent Fourth of July weekend deputies recorded 16 DUI arrests with maybe another two still pending on results from the Mississippi State Crime Lab in Meridian.
The numbers gave the men pause.
"We don't like getting one DUI arrest," said Calhoun. "But of course that is highly unrealistic on my part. As long as we are dealing with people and driving, we will have those who choose to do the wrong thing. The only thing we can do is to try and catch these offenders and get them off our roadways before they injure or kill someone."
In 2009, Sollie said the county registered only two traffic fatalities. He said both of those accidents involved impaired drivers.
Judging by the numbers so far this year, Calhoun estimates the county will see DUI arrests exceed 400. He said people need to understand the lives they are taking into their own hands whenever they make that choice.
Sollie said the department has not received funding for DUI enforcement as in the past but to offset that the Click It or Ticket campaigns have enabled deputies to conduct safety/seat belt checkpoints periodically throughout the county. Coupled with enhanced training for DUI enforcement, Sollie said these checkpoints have yielded arrests.
"We do have more officers out there so more deputies and better training is going to make these numbers go up," Sollie said. "These numbers are a reason to be concerned and we will do all we can to minimize the number of impaired drivers and in turn, the dangers they represent for the residents of Lauderdale County."