During busy weekend, Chapel Hill police pilot new program to lower DWIs

Orange County News

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – With tens of thousands of students back at UNC-Chapel Hill, police are working with a community organization to cut down on drunk driving.

“The beginning of the school year and the end of the school year in a college town are times that alcohol use increases,” said Chapel Hill Police Capt. Joshua Mecimore. “DWI is certainly a part of that.”

Mecimore hopes that addressing alcohol “over service” before someone leaves a restaurant or bar could cut down on those arrests.

“If someone leaves your place of business, has a crash or hurt someone or hurt themselves, your business has significant liability because of that — if you serve past the point that they should’ve been served,” Mecimore said.

The North Carolina ABC Commission states “it is illegal to serve an alcoholic beverage to anyone who is already drunk or impaired.” That can include visible coordination loss and slurred speech.

That’s why Chapel Hill police are partnering with the Campus and Community Coalition to start the “Place of Last Drink” program which tracks where people drank before getting arrested for a DWI.

Elinor Landess, with the Campus and Community Coalition, said the new program is aimed at educating businesses.

“They (police) will follow up with that establishment later on and say ‘hey, just so you know, we wanted to give you a heads up, that somebody who received a DWI was served here’,” Landess said. “So that allows the business to go back and make sure their staff are doing what they need to be doing.”

The owner of Linda’s Bar and Grill, Chris Carini, said although he questions the reliability of what people can say when arrested for a DWI, he feels the new program is monitoring best practices that bars should already be following.

“We are already held to a higher standard of the law because we are an alcohol service establishment,” Carini said. “If that becomes the police using that to find places that are nuisance bars, places that will constantly over serve, and serve people who are under age, then I don’t think it’s the worst idea they’ve ever had.“

This type of program has been used in other states like Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Chapel Hill police plan to monitor the data over the next six months to see if it’s something that could be expanded.

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