HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The Huntsville Police Department has announced that its DUI Task Force is returning to its normal, nighttime shift.
The change comes in the midst of public concern that the unit wasn’t on the streets looking for drunk drivers after dark.
Back in January, the task force moved to first shift, working 6-7 a.m. to 3-4 p.m., to help with traffic control due the closure of Cecil Ashburn Drive.
But now the decision has been made to put them back on their regular shift- 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Sgt. Michael Nelson has been a member of the DUI Task force for eight years and now he is their new supervisor. They specialize in responding to DUI calls, which frees up other officers and manpower.
Since January, Nelson says the task force has still been making arrests.
"The drug impairment DUIs increased versus the alcohol DUIs so more people are using drugs and driving during the day than at nighttime hours," he explained.
Sgt. Nelson acknowledged that there’s been a significant increase in alcohol related fatalities over the past four months compared to this time last year.
"There are other officers out there who are able to do DUIs but we don't have a dedicated task force at night working the DUIs so that may be a small portion of it but I think most of it is just drivers making bad decisions," he added.
According to HPD, last year, from January to April, the task force made 166 alcohol-related DUI arrests. So far this year, they’ve made less than 100.
"Starting next week, they're going back to night shift to do DUI enforcement," Sgt. Nelson stated.
Attorney George Flowers says it's a good move.
“I think the citizens of Huntsville should be very happy that finally, the DUI task force is going back to their normal shift. It’s a good thing for the people of Huntsville. The reason for them being taken off of it was questionable at best,” Flowers said.
"There's no doubt that there's a correlation between active DUI enforcement and the number of DUI related traffic accidents that take place," he added. "It is unquestionable that there's been an increase in the number of traffic related alcohol incidents while the number of DUI arrests have gone down dramatically."
Grants will be helping the task force do regular DUI checkpoints.
“Drive sober or get pulled over. The ADECA grants are out there. We’re working overtime. We’re working DUI checkpoints. We’re going to be out there enforcing the laws and making sure people are driving sober. We want everyone to be safe and get home safely,” Sgt. Nelson stated.