Police raise heat on repeat offenders

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2012

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Recidivist drink-drivers are clogging Taranaki's roads and police are vowing to put the brakes on those drivers who continue to flout the law.

In a unique approach to the problem, Taranaki police recently began visiting the region's 50 worst offenders.

Many have more than five convictions, and police have been delivering packages detailing what help is available.

But police say those offenders are just the tip of the iceberg, with more than 300 offenders identified.

Alcohol plays a major part in crime and police hope the new measure will have a flow-on effect into other areas.

Taranaki rural area commander Inspector Frank Grant said when drivers got behind the wheel with high levels of alcohol it was not a case of if they had an accident, but when.

"It's certainly a motor vehicle accident waiting to happen, that's the reality," Mr Grant said.

The number of recidivist drunk drivers in the region was a serious concern, he said.

"It's very concerning from a community perspective, particularly in a small community like Taranaki, that people will continue to flout the law."

Mr Grant said drunk drivers were not only putting themselves at risk but innocent members of the public.

"It's difficult to comprehend that once someone has been caught that they continue to behave in this manner."

He said police would be running drink-driving operations during the summer months.

Senior Sergeant Allan Whaley said the message was not getting through to repeat offenders.

"They are continuing to offend at high levels and appear unwilling, for whatever reason, to make the decision to change their behaviour," Mr Whaley said.

Those identified were also featuring in family violence and public disorder offending.

"If we can influence these people then I'm sure we can also start to reduce offending in other areas," Mr Whaley said.

Police had serious concerns about the number of drunk drivers being caught on the region's roads, he said.

"In particular the number of recidivist drunk drivers that we've identified who are not changing their behaviour and are continuing to drive with very high levels of alcohol or drugs."

Mr Whaley said the offenders were seasoned drinkers and their alcohol levels were often twice or more the legal limit.

"Not only are they a danger on the roads to both the community and themselves, but to their families who may be travelling with them."

While police were trying to provide recidivist offenders with tools to take responsibility for their actions, it was not a soft approach.

"Each time we visit an identified offender we make it quite clear we are also noting down details of the vehicles that they own or have access to and flagging them in our system so we will be stopping them and prosecuting them should they be caught offending again," Mr Whaley said.

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THE NUMBERS

Between July 1, 2011 and June 30 2012, 778 people were convicted of drink-driving in Taranaki.

About 77 per cent were males.

Males aged 16 to 25 accounted for 35 per cent.

About 32 per cent had more than twice the legal alcohol limit to drive.

35 offenders convicted had a breath alcohol level more than 1000 micrograms, the highest level was 1554mcg, the legal limit is 400mcg.

48 offenders had a blood alcohol level greater than 160 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, the legal limit is 80mg, 81 had more than 120mg and 59 had more than 150mg.

172 people, 22 per cent of those convicted, were recidivist offenders convicted for their third or subsequent offence.

85 per cent of recidivist drunk drivers are males and the greatest portion were aged between 46 and 55.

Between November 26 and December, 50 drivers were processed for driving drunk.

- Taranaki Daily News

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