Crime • Investigative vehicle masquerades as a bar.
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Drunken drivers won't want to belly up to this bar, but police statewide are anxious to serve them there.
A new $250,000 mobile command center truck for DUI checkpoints and blitzes is wrapped with a life-size picture of four police officers working a well-stocked bar shot at the Tavernacle in Salt Lake City with a banner across the top saying, "Now serving drunk drivers."
In back, a pictured tavern door is the vehicle's real entrance to where drunken drivers will find Intoxilyzer breath testers and cameras awaiting to record the procedure.
The new mobile DUI center is essentially wearing a costume as a bar just in time for Halloween, when it is expected to get a workout. Officers hope that word about it will help scare some potential drunken drivers off the road.
"This is becoming one of our most dangerous and deadly holidays," said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Ted Tingey. "People get the old notion that New Year's is one of our deadliest. It's one of our least anymore because people plan to be designating a driver or plan on a taxi ride," but they don't do that enough for Halloween parties.
So he said the Utah Highway Safety Office has approved funding 150 extra DUI enforcement shifts for police agencies statewide this week, especially on Halloween. The mobile command center has already been used in two weekend checkpoints, and will be used for more DUI enforcement saturation patrols later.
"We want to get the word out that if people want to take a chance and try to drive home drunk, we'll try to find them and keep our kids safe while they are out trick-or-treating," Tingey said.
The new mobile center is build specifically to assist in DUI checkpoints or saturation patrols, and was paid for by a federal grant and by fees assessed to drunken drivers.
It allows Intoxilyzer tests of two people at a time. "We have built-in video cameras to record everything, in case questions come up in court," said UHP Trooper Shawn Thomas.
Tingey adds that sometimes drunks get a little chatty when left to themselves, forgetting that the video is still rolling. "They'll say things like, 'I'm at least glad they didn't look inside the trunk." Oops.
It still has that new-car smell. "But the first time someone throws up in here, that'll go away. We've managed to avoid that so far," in the first five blitzes and checkpoints where it has been used, Thomas said.
It also has computers and desk space for dispatchers, and for other officers to write reports, do research and temporarily hold suspects.
Tingey said the vehicle is available for use by any law enforcement agency statewide that requests it. He expects high use during such times as holidays, high school graduations or near concerts or events where drinking is prevalent.
He hopes aloud that it will make people think about the high cost of drinking and driving.
"Going to jail is only half of it," Tingey said. "One, you're going to lose your car. Your license is going to get revoked. You're probably going to lose your job. You're going to have court costs and attorney fees. Your going to have an alcohol treatment program. You're going to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle.... And that's just for one DUI."