In Miami Beach, police officers arrested 1,299 suspected drunk drivers in 2009. Last year, that number dropped to 492.
This year, the number continues to plummet with just 221 arrests so far.
Has the message finally sunk in that drinking and driving is a deadly combination? Hardly, the number of traffic wrecks in Miami-Dade linked to drinking has remained level.
The Miami Beach police blame a lack of officer training and resources for the decrease, while the department acknowledges that officers sometimes forgo DUI stops to target other crime trends plaguing the city.
"It's not that we're not focusing on DUIs, but this is a busy, happening community, and we have a lot of issues," said Chief Ray Martinez. "DUI enforcement and traffic enforcement is one of many."
However, Miami Beach is not alone. There is an overall decline in DUI arrests county-and-statewide. In Miami, over 1,000 drunk driving arrests were made in 2012. This year, just 327. In Miami Gardens, 94 drunk drivers were arrested in 2010, and just 16 this year.
In Doral, a similar trend. In 2010, cops nabbed 191 drunk drivers and just 34 so far this year.
Drunk driving is still making headlines in South Florida. Just last week, an aspiring pop singer from Key Biscayne was sentenced to 12 years for the DUI hit-and-run of a cyclist on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Earlier this year, a drunken bartender Karlie Tomica hit a chef walking across Collins Avenue, killing him and speeding away. She was followed by a good Samaritan, and eventually arrested.
Lawyers blame the decrease in arrests to the retirement or reassignment of several key Beach police officers who were prolific in DUI arrests. The union has also attacked the administration for lack of training for newer patrol officers.
However, the fewer DUI arrests mostly come from a change in police philosophy.
"That's not a good use of police resources, to have a guy sitting on an establishment that sells alcohol and waiting for people to come out," said Miami Beach Deputy Chief Mark Overton. "I don't know if that was happening before, but that's not what we're focusing on."
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Source: The Miami Herald, "DUI arrests down-way down- in Miami Beach," Sept. 15, 2013.