Holiday season Checkstop charges down by 60%

City police laid 60 per cent fewer charges in Checkstops over the holiday season than the previous year.

The number of people charged in the impaired-driving enforcement stops in December — seven — dropped by nearly the same percentage.

Officers laid 13 charges for being impaired or failing to provide samples that month, compared with 33 in December of 2017.

One reason for the smaller numbers was that police only operated two enhanced Checkstops compared with four the previous December, said acting Sgt. Chris Agren.

That comes down to funding from Alberta Transportation, he said.

“It depends on government funding, I don’t know why that occurs,” said Agren.

“It might not be less funding, sometimes they decide to spread it around to other parts of the year.”

Checkstops, he said, were also activated during Stampede week last year.

An official with Alberta Transportation said Calgary police sought funding for fewer Checkstops.

“This year, the Calgary Police Service has requested funding for five Checkstops in 2018/19, and was allotted $50,000 in funding,” Jamie Friesen said in a statement.

“In the past, the Calgary Police Service requested funding for between four and 10 Checkstops (year-round), and it is up to (police) to decide how much funding to request.”

Provincewide, the ministry has allocated $425,000 for that enforcement this year, an increase of $112,000 over 2017-18, he said.

And while Agren agrees the presence of Checkstops is a prime deterrent to driving drunk or stoned, he said he’s not disappointed with that allocation of resources.

That’s because fewer people are getting behind the wheel impaired, another reason for the smaller number of charges, he said.

“Culturally, it’s becoming something that people aren’t going to gamble on anymore,” he said.

“People are more cognizant about Checkstops, particularly in the Christmas season.”

Agren said one six-hour shift with the Checkstop at two locations in the inner-city at the start of Christmas party season in December resulted in only a few licence suspensions.

Greater powers that took effect Dec. 18, allowing police to demand a breath sample from motorists stopped for other alleged infractions, have also resulted in more impaired charges being laid, said Agren.

A weeklong shift by the traffic unit now results in one or two impaired charges from that Mandatory Alcohol Screening requirement, “when before that, we might have had none.”

“It’s resulted in more impaired-driving investigations . . . I think it’s a great deterrent,” he said.

In addition to the charges, city police also handed out 46 licence suspensions to drivers below the legal blood-alcohol limit of .08 but above the .05 level.

That number in December 2017 was 58.

The Calgary Police Service said they weren’t able to identify the number of alleged offences involving drug impairment because they’re awaiting toxicology lab results.

Agren said he hasn’t seen a change in the frequency of suspected cannabis-impaired motorists since recreational use of marijuana became legal last Oct. 17.

“I haven’t seen a lot of drug impairment after legalization but I hadn’t seen a lot of it before that law, either,” he said.

City police aren’t about to adopt the use of roadside drug screening devices any time soon, he said, and will continue to rely on the physical sobriety test.

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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