JoLynn Mulholland has known people who only had the occasional drink before the COVID-19 pandemic. Then during the outbreak, it became one drink a night, before switching to several times a night in some cases.
Mulholland, the STOP Act coordinator for the Drug-Free Society Coalition through the Cayuga Community Health Network, shared that observation in assessing the worrying trend she and several law enforcement officials have been facing — a marked increase this year in local arrests involving people working under the influence of alcohol. or drugs.
Law enforcement officials in Auburn and Cayuga County expressed concern about the slight increase in such arrests this year, citing factors such as people dealing with isolation during the pandemic, going out more after COVID-19 restrictions were rolled back and opening additional bars now.
Auburn Police Chief James Slayton told The Citizen that the APD made 29 drunk arrests in the whole of 2021, compared to 38 DWI arrests from January to August this year. Auburn police drove five cars while their capacity was impaired due to drug-related arrests in total last year and were already at the same mark as of September 16 this year.
The leader said the problem in Auburn comes more from the older population.
Looking at the arrest data, Slayton noted that there don’t seem to be many young people arrested by DWI, “which tells me they’re responsible and they’re getting an Uber,” adding that many young people use ride-sharing programs. He praised younger people in the area for riding if they would have gone out to drink rather than get behind the wheel themselves.
The average age of those in Auburn selected for DWI was 27 in January, which Slayton said was the lowest median age of the year so far, as of August 30, while the median age in July was 44. He noted That the average February-to-July age for DWI fees in the city was from the mid-30s to low-fifties, which he said was the average age range for Auburn for about the past three years.
Slayton also noted that public activity outside the home has rebounded this year due to fewer restrictions and pandemic concerns.
“We’re back, in a sense, to normal lifestyles. I wouldn’t say (people) weren’t drinking, (but) there were restaurants that weren’t open, and there were bars that weren’t open, so there weren’t opportunities for people to go out as they are now. other”.
Slayton said the APD has been proactive, with officers conducting additional traffic patrols when they have time.
“It’s always a concern, it only takes one incident for a tragedy to happen, someone going through an event or someone hitting a family when they come home late at night. It’s staying proactive as we were.” “We are stopping more traffic now when officers are available.
Slayton added that these arrest numbers are likely to rise due to a higher number of Algerian Defense Police officers than in previous years, so there are more officers available to patrol. Use the example of seven officers working on a shift. If there are five calls, two will still be available to stop traffic.
“The more employees we have, the more likely someone will be arrested (if they’re drinking and driving),” Slayton said.
Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenk has also seen a year-over-year rise in such arrests. He said thirty-eight DWI people were arrested by members of the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office in 2021, with three driving while capacity was impaired by drug arrests that year. That compares to holding 50 DWIs in the office and two for driving while impaired due to drug-related arrests as of September 16, 2022.
“We’ve done a little more proactive enforcement but that doesn’t explain the sharp increase in numbers. I think it’s a clear indication that more people in our community are, unfortunately, making this decision to drive under the influence,” he said. “It’s not a trend we want to see continued.”
A diverse group of people take to the road under the influence, Schenk said, noting that mayor’s office data shows a mix of males and females being arrested from individuals in their 20s to those in their 60s.
Schenk said data from the mayor’s office as of August 31 showed that many of the arrests involved drivers coming from establishments serving alcoholic beverages and events where alcoholic beverages may be present.
“We also have, in a number of cases, these offenders indicating that they were coming from a friend’s house and a family member’s house and they appeared to have been abusing alcohol and then, unfortunately, made this poor decision,” he said.
Schenk noted that drunk drivers are putting themselves and everyone around them at risk.
“Some of the worst accidents in which I participated in the investigation or as a respondent were those in which a person under the influence caused death or serious injury to others,” he said.
Emphasis on help
Schenk stressed that help is available for people with alcohol abuse. He noted that organizations such as Auburn-based nonprofit Nick’s Ride 4 Friends and Confidential Help or Alcohol & Drugs can help people secure the help they need. Local government agencies such as the Cayuga County Office of Mental Health can help people identify resources.
“I am sure many of the individuals we arrest for drunk driving have addiction issues and need this help, but I encourage them, family members or friends to reach out and try to reach out and try to reach out and help them find the local resources they need,” he said. Schenk.
Schenck said the mayor’s office tries to highlight these services, and frequently sets up tables at community events to provide people with information.
“We work on prevention as well, because we strongly believe that this is a key aspect of solving this problem in our community,” he said.
The sheriff’s office also enacted what Schenk described as a “strict” enforcement of traffic.
“I’m sure if someone made that decision and drove under their influence and they weren’t caught, they would do it again or they would do it again in the future,” he said. “So it is important that we implement the traffic law and try to hold these violators accountable.”
More than alcohol
Talk to the citizen[سبت.]. 7,[كوغا]Large Territory Assistant District Prosecutor[ديان][أدسيت]He said there was a lot of driving while ability was disabled by[مويستد]Cases now of what she has seen in her entire career. She was concerned about issues like fentanyl ending up in other drugs.
“People think they’re taking what they think is a harmless molar-type (drug), but it has fentanyl in it. We have people overdosing in their cars and things like that…so the bad problem is it’s getting worse,” Adsit said. “Marijuana use is increasing, so you’re seeing more DWAI (arrests) drugs with marijuana.”
She also noted that there are more drug identification experts in the law enforcement community – because “drug use has become a problem in all societies” – and this also led to increased driving operations with reduced capacity due to drug arrests.
Adsit said more officers are being trained to be drug recognition experts in the state, noting that it’s hard to become such an expert. She said the NYPD Auburn Barracks has one drug identification expert, and the APD has one expert as well.
While citing the same trend for an increase in DWI cases this year compared to the previous one, Adsit also said that the numbers did not decline during the onset of the outbreak as much as was expected at the time.
“I’m not sure why this happened, but we didn’t get anywhere close (in the DWI arrests) than I thought we should have when everything was closed,” she said.
Additionally, Adsit noted that the number of DWI-related arrests prosecuted by Cayuga DA’s office, including driving while impaired due to drug issues, from January 1 to September 1, 2018 to 2022, was higher before the pandemic than it was at the time. present days.
Adsit shared stats with The Citizen within those benchmarks showing that the DA handled 189 cases in 2018, 180 in 2019, 126 in 2020, 128 in 2021, and 134 as of September 1 in 2022.
“We are a little bit behind where we were before COVID,” Adsit said.
She also noted in an email that the average age of DWI-related offenders in Cayuga County is “significantly higher” than other counties in the state.
Adsit said it feels these arrest numbers can be mitigated through education, advertising, and emphasizing that there are consequences for driving when under the influence.
“Especially when we have deaths and we’re prosecuting someone for murder or a car assault, we try to make sure that people know there are serious consequences for these things,” she said.
Although county numbers are seeing a rise from 2021 to 2022, there may not be a trend happening statewide. Beau Duffy, director of public information for the New York State Police, said in an email that when comparing just state police tickets from January 1 to September 14 over the past three years, there were 7,146 DWIs in 2020, 8,813 in 2021 and 7,846 in 2022. For DUI by drug arrests during the same time frame, there were 1,119 in 2020, 1,523 in 2021, and 986 in 2022.
Focus on solutions
Mulholland, who also serves as the state’s opioid response grant prevention educator with CHAD, said she spoke with Slayton and Schenck about the arrest increase as part of monthly meetings with the Cayuga County Alcohol and Substance Abuse Commission.
Mulholland believes one factor behind the increase is the decriminalization of marijuana in New York in 2021, because she believes this may have prompted more people to drive while using the substance. She also talked about the idea that while marijuana is not decriminalized in the state, that doesn’t make it any less legal or dangerous to use while driving. She noted that marijuana is as addictive as alcohol and other substances.
“We want people to know that driving under the influence is still driving under the influence,” she said.
She also said the STOP Act has been running trainings for bars, events that serve alcohol and any entity in the county that serves alcohol to help employees stop over-spraying, identify signs of alcohol intoxication in patrons, identify underage drinkers, and note proper identification.
“We want to give people the confidence and skills to do their jobs well and prevent alcohol tragedies,” Mulholland continued.
Adding that Auburn has become a “brewery town” in recent years, she notes that many IPAs and other types of beer served in breweries tend to contain higher levels of alcohol.
Mulholland also feels that community plays a role.
“We normalize drinking alcohol as OK. We normalize, ‘Oh, you’re nervous about your kids, that’s a drink,’ or ‘You had a rough day at work, that’s a drink,’ someone dies,” that’s a drink she said.
She also said there has been an increase in women in Cayuga Prefecture dealing with substance abuse and she believes there is stigma around women seeking substance abuse treatment. She spoke about the importance of reducing stigma for people trying to get treatment. She said there are substance abuse counselors, who have clients who bring kids to meetings because they don’t have childcare.
“Prevention staff will meet you where you are,” she said.
“Addiction touches all aspects of life, race, gender and ethnicity,” she added. “No matter who you are, we are willing to help you and provide the services you need so that you can live a healthy life, learn from mistakes, move forward and make sure you are healthy and have the support you need to live a successful life. It is doable.”