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Fargo DUIs down nearly 10% in 2012

FARGO - Drunken-driving arrests by Fargo police dipped slightly last year from a record number in 2011, and a department spokesman said he's hopeful state lawmakers will pass legislation this year to put a bigger dent in the numbers.

Preliminary figures show Fargo police made 1,019 arrests for DUI in 2012, Lt. Joel Vettel said.

That's almost a 10 percent decrease from last year's record of 1,127 DUI arrests and just under the 2007 total of 1,034. Arrests numbered 894 in 2008, 825 in 2009 and 875 in 2010.

Vettel said police didn't make any major changes in DUI enforcement efforts from 2011 to 2012, but rather continued to employ current tools for cracking down on drunken driving - including saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints - and educate people about the dangers of impaired driving.

"We're not putting all of our eggs in one basket. We want to be consistent in trying to approach this from multiple directions," he said.

And while police keep a tally of DUI arrests, he said, a better measure of success is the fact that Fargo had no fatal vehicle accidents attributed to drunken driving in 2012.

West Fargo police had arrested 162 drivers for DUI through Sunday, Assistant Chief Mike Reitan said. That's up slightly from 2011's year-end total of 150 arrests and the five-year average of 145 arrests from 2007 to 2011, but still well below the most recent peak of 238 arrests in 2006.

Moorhead police did not have comparable figures available.

Vettel said Fargo police see proposed legislation to stiffen DUI penalties as a stepping stone to reducing drunken-driving incidents.

The department supports proposals to increase jail time and fines for offenders and to extend the time period in which previous DUI offenses are included for enhanced penalties.

"We're very confident that something will get done from within the legislation this year," he said.

Fargo police have lobbied the Legislature in the past for tougher DUI laws without success.

"We know going forward there's going to be some challenges legislatively, and we certainly continue to support those changes that will help us deal with the issue," he said.