CrimeTracker Investigation: DWI arrests and prosecutions

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The latest available data shows more than 40 percent of the people who were killed in vehicle crashes in Louisiana were in accidents that involved drivers who had been drinking.

In a FOX 8 CrimeTracker Investigation, we look at DWI arrests and prosecutions in Jefferson Parish.

Law enforcement said it continues to crack down on drivers who drink and then get behind the wheel. Anti-drunk driving advocates said it remains a serious problem.

"Drinking slows your response time behind the wheel of a car, blurs your vision, makes you sleepier, there is so much that is happening in your body that you think you have control of, but it's completely beyond your control when you've been drinking," said Joyce V. Bracey, executive director of the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse for Greater New Orleans.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said in 2013 it made 606 DWI arrests. And in 2014 the number of DWI arrests made by sheriff's deputies was 766. But that is only part of the story for Jefferson Parish.

The Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office prosecutes DWI cases for 12 different law enforcement agencies. They are:

Louisiana State Police

Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office

Kenner Police Department

Gretna Police Department

Harahan Police Department

Westwego Police Department

Lafitte Police Department

Grand Isle Police Department

Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Crescent City Connection Police Department / Louisiana Department of Public Safety,

Causeway Commission Police, and the

East Jefferson Levee District Police

The district attorney's office said in 2013 it prosecuted 2,105 DWI cases, and last year the number was 1,429.

"The worse part of our job is doing death notifications, and that's when we have to go tell parents and family members that the most important person in their life is not coming home," said Trooper Melissa Matey of State Police Troop B.

Troop B's jurisdiction covers Jefferson, St. Charles, St. John, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Orleans Parishes. However, state troopers normally do not conduct traffic patrols within New Orleans.

There were 960 DWI arrests in 2013 and 845 for 2014, according to Matey. And in terms fatal crashes statewide, the latest data shows that in 2013, of the 703 fatal crashes in the Louisiana, 42-percent were alcohol related.

"So almost half of the people killed in 2013 were because of drunk drivers behind the wheel," Matey said. "That's extremely too many drunk drivers behind the wheel."

And aggressive enforcement is ongoing.

"We also have troopers here at Troop B who are assigned strictly to a DWI task force," Matey said.

And CADA wants to drive home the point early that drinking and driving is a really bad combination, so it's educational campaign in the community involves children as well.

"We start from kindergarten, all the way up to 12th grade with prevention in schools which is the best, you know, prevention is absolutely the best cure to start kids understanding that they can't drink, and drink and drive," said Bracey.

Matey said people who are planning to drink should have a prior plan for how they are to get home, so they will not be tempted to get behind the wheel.

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