CUMBERLAND – Local police say they arrested nearly twice as many people for drunken driving in 2012 as they did the previous year.
Sixty people were arrested for driving under the influence last year, a whopping 94 percent increase over the 31 DUI arrests that were made in 2011, Police Chief John R. Desmarais noted in the Cumberland Police Department’s annual report, which was presented to the Town Council last Wednesday.
Desmarais said the increase, which is also nearly double the number of DUI arrests made in 2010, is a result of the department’s continued “commitment to drunk and drugged driving detection and prosecution.”
According to the report, three of the DUI cases involved felonies, are pending in Superior Court and will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office. The cases before the Superior Court represent 5 percent of all of the department’s DUI cases. All of the remaining cases have been adjudicated in either the R.I. Traffic Tribunal or District Court, while one case was amended to reckless driving.
Police say 47 of the DUI defendants, or 78 percent, pled nolo contendre, or no contest, which is equivalent to guilty in Rhode Island. Eight cases were dismissed in District Court by the prosecution, and six defendants pled guilty in the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal to refusal to submit to a chemical test.
Police last year also referred 1,195 traffic-related and 61 parking tickets to Cumberland Municipal Court, with the town prevailing in 92 percent of those cases.
Desmarais said traffic safety continues to be a top priority for town residents, and that 2012 was the second consecutive year where there was a decrease in the number of accidents.
There were 824 accidents last year and 839 the year before.
“The last three years have also seen a gradual decrease in the number of accidents each year, starting in 2009 where there were 905 to this year – a decrease of 81 over that time period,” the chief said.
Desmarais said a number of factors contributed to the overall reduction in motor vehicle accidents, including a new message-speed trailer and speed signs that were acquired by the traffic division last year, and neighborhood traffic calming and residents’ speed programs.
Desmarais called 2012 “extremely progressive and successful,” saying the department’s motto of “working together to build a safer community’ has given the department “the energy and perseverance to continue to succeed in our mission of providing professional quality policing.”
He also thanked Mayor Daniel J. McKee and the Cumberland Town Council for their continued support of the department.
The department’s annual report also lists several goals and objectives Desmarais is hoping to accomplish this year and next, including:
* Increasing patrol officers’ less than lethal options by purchasing TASERS or other electric devices.
* An updated phone system to replace the department’s outdated and malfunctioning system.
* Increasing the involvement of the community by developing and conducting community-based programs like the Citizens Police Academy.
* Software to allow officers to dictate reports.
* Digital cameras for all members of the patrol division.
Cumberland Police Department is a nationally accredited police department and was re-accredited a third time in March of last year. According to Desmarais, the department is currently preparing for the next re-accreditation coming up in December 2014.
“I would like to take this opportunity to commend all members of the Cumberland Police Department, sworn, non-sworn and all civilian personnel, for their hard work and dedication to service for the residents of the Town of Cumberland, to the people who work in our town and the visitors who come to our town on a daily basis,” he said.
“We look forward to working with everyone, from the citizen to the business owner, to the child playing in the front yard who waves to a police cruiser as it drives by.”