The Chenoa Police Department was recently recognized by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists for its DUI enforcement efforts in a recently published annual survey and statistics report for 2017.
    The department ranked 113th among reporting municipalities in Illinois with 17 DUI arrests.
    Individual officers that were recognized in Chenoa are Chief Travis Cornwall, K-9 Officer Karl Ladtkow, Officer Joshua Albee, Officer Graham Haley and Officer Jon Dassow.
    AAIM is an independent non-profit organization founded in 1982 by families who have lost loved ones in drunk driving crashes. Its mission is to prevent deaths and injuries caused by intoxicated or distracted motorists and to assist impaired driving crash victims and their families in Illinois.
    “When I started back in 2008, Chenoa had a lot of local people that we had to arrest for DUI for various reasons,” Cornwall said. “After a couple years of arrests, hopefully, the word has gotten out that we’re enforcing it.
    “More and more often, the people we’re catching on DUIs are not from our local area. We still get a few, but a lot of them we catch on Interstate 55 or Route 24. It’s kind of a scary thing to think about because we’re catching people that have been driving for two hours, potentially intoxicated, and we just happen to be the ones that catch them.”
    Cornwall said the AAIM sends a voluntary survey out to law enforcement agencies in March or April of every year. They want to know how many DUI arrests were made and if any officers should be recognized for their efforts.
    “There’s been quite a large response from various departments over the years and they post the results of the survey on their website,” Cornwall said. “It’s not completely accurate because they don’t get all of the departments in Illinois reporting, but most of the counties and municipalities report to it.”
    Chenoa PD has been participating in the survey since at least 2008. Although the department had 17 DUI arrests this year, in the past the number has been up to as many as 30.
    “There are a number of factors that determine how many DUI arrests we can make,” Cornwall said. “One of the major factors is how busy the officer is. If the officer is busy on various calls, they can’t focus on looking for DUIs. Most of the time we only have one officer on duty, so they have to prioritize a little bit. Also, if we’ve had a bad winter that means several months of not being able to see much out there on the roads.”
    Cornwall said having a lower number of DUI arrests is a sotf of win-win situation. On one hand, he said having a higher number of DUI arrests is good because it means people are being caught for drunk driving. On the other hand, Cornwall said it’s also good to not see so many arrests because it could mean fewer people are driving while intoxicated.
    “The way I look at it is, most people we’re catching are not locals and I hope that’s because the locals understand that we’re out there and we are going to arrest you if you’re driving drunk,” Cornwall said. “Gone are the days where you just get a ride home. If you are over the limit, you are going to be arrested. If we had a high number and they were all local, I might start to do a little bit more of an awareness campaign, but we’ve seen a major contrast since 2008.”
    Statistically, Cornwall said most DUI arrests occur between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., so the officer working the night shift has the highest likelihood of making a DUI arrest.
    “After midnight the service calls drop, so the officers have more time go out there and do traffic enforcement,” Cornwall said. “A lot of bars close at 1 or 2 a.m. and if you’re driving at night your odds are higher to get pulled over because there are fewer cars on the road.”
    Today’s drunk drivers aren’t always the person swerving all over the road. Sometimes, Cornwall said, what people assume are drunk drivers are actually people who are tired, having a medical issue or are distracted by their phone. However, Cornwall advises that if someone observes bad driving behavior, it’s important to call it in.
    “As a citizen, you may not really know what you’re calling in,” Cornwall said. “But we’ll show up and figure it out. Regardless of what is going on, you helped get a dangerous person off the road. I would encourage drivers to get a description of the vehicle, a license plate if you can and direction of travel. Then just dial  9-1-1 because that’s the best way to get to a local agency, especially if you don’t know where you are.”