Wichita Police Department motorcycle unit will target drunk drivers

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The number of DUI arrests in Wichita has dropped by more than 50 percent. Police are taking notice and hope to change that.

May 6, 2016 is a day Phil and Kay Atterberry will never forget -- the call from police, the chaos in the emergency room and the crash scene. They'd lost their 25-year-old son, Dusty. 

"He didn't die. He was killed," Kay said. "He wasn't in an accident. He was in a drunk driving wreck."

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Crosses mark the intersection where Dusty and his friend Dirk were killed that day by a drunk driver. It leaves their families wondering:  Had more police officers been patrolling the streets for drunk drivers that day, might they still be alive?

"We finally saw the crime scene photographs and said, 'Wait a minute, how is this possible,'" Phil Atterbury said.  

Seventeen years ago, the Wichita Police Department eliminated its traffic unit. It was those officers' jobs to keep city streets safe and to stop drunk drivers.

Since 2000, those arrests have decreased by more than 50 percent. Yes, the number of alcohol-related crashes remains as high as ever.

"What's bad, I have a good belief that enforcement is down," said Attorney Les Hulnick with the National College of DUI defense. "We no longer have dedicated units to law enforcement and that's too bad." 

Lt. Jeff Allen with the Wichita Police Department remembers when the department lost the traffic unit. 

"So, they got pulled from DUIs and traffic stops to cover 911 calls," he said.  

He also saw the drop in drunk driving arrests. It concerned him so much that he went to the City Council to approve bringing back the specialized unit. Now, 20 cops will be dedicated to stopping bad drivers. Half of the officers will target people driving under the influence.

"My goal is to see those reduced," Lt. Allen said. "I want Wichita to be on the leading edge, getting crashes under control, getting drunk driving under control, getting distracted driving under control...see those numbers go down." 

Officer Tricia Tiede is leading the charge. She'll be working with the new motorcycle unit in places like Old Town, where drivers are more likely to drive drunk.

"Hopefully we can educate the public,to pay attention while they're driving obey the laws, save lives," Officer Tiede said. 

The traffic unit will be put into place on December 2. Those 20 officers will do nothing but enforce traffic laws, including DUIs.

For the Atterberrys, it's too late for their son who is now a statistic. Bret Blevins, the man who was behind the wheel of the car that killed Dusty and his friend, is now in prison for the next 60 years.

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