Austin police expand patrols to discourage driving drunk

Katrina Tollin

Austin police made 29 arrests in the Sixth Street area Saturday night, including 11 arrests for public intoxication.

APD designated Saturday and Tuesday part of the No Refusal Initiative to reduce the number of fatalities caused by drunken drivers.

“We want to encourage folks to come down and enjoy themselves and enjoy the Mardi Gras festivities, but please do so in a safe and responsible manner, especially when it comes to finding a way home,” said Commander Chris McIlvain of the downtown patrol.

Police issued nine Breathalyzer tests and 14 blood tests. Four people voluntarily submitted to blood tests, and an on-call judge issued warrants to obtain blood samples from 10 additional suspects.

According to APD statistics, 85 percent of collisions that usually occur between midnight and 2:59 a.m. involve a driver under the influence of alcohol.

A judge was on call this Saturday from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and will be back on Tuesday to write warrants for suspected drunken drivers who refuse a breath or blood test. Officers will then take suspects to the Blood Alcohol Content Bus, also known as the BATBUS, to have blood drawn.

The DWI Enforcement Team, overtime units and the BATBUS allow regular officers to return to their patrols and prevent them from spending hours on a single DWI case, said Highway Enforcement Commander Jason Dusterhoft.
Dusterhoft advised visitors to the downtown area this Mardi Gras to create a plan and to exercise good judgment to follow that plan after they have been drinking.

“If that doesn’t happen, my team and all the patrol officers that we’re going to have out here saturating the area will end up taking those people to jail,” Dusterhoft said.

Last year, APD made 43 driving-while-intoxicated arrests as a result of the No Refusal Initiative. More than 40 percent of those were double the legal limit, Dusterhoft said.

Road closures can be expected Tuesday night in the area around Sixth Street starting at 6 p.m.