Fresno, Calif. - The Fresno Police Department is bringing back a controversial strategy to crackdown on suspected drunk drivers. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer announced Monday the department will bring back a "bar watch" program. Undercover officers will monitor bars and restaurants and arrest suspected drunk drivers. Fresno's police chief says we can expect more drunk driving checkpoints and patrols in 2018 and officers will be far more aggressive in finding anyone who plans to drink and drive.
"We are going to re-institute the controversial "bar watch" operations in the City of Fresno," said Chief Dyer.
Before the end of the year, Chief Dyer vows to have undercover officers working outside of businesses that serve alcohol, looking to stop anyone who appears to be intoxicated from getting behind the wheel of a car, but the enforcement won't stop there. Anyone driving away will be watched.
"Our traffic officers will follow that individual away from the location and if in fact they display some erratic driving behavior we will certainly make a stop and determine whether or not they are intoxicated," said Chief Dyer.
In court, attorney Charles Magill has experience challenging this law enforcement tactic
"I did a case that was a bar watch case from a decade ago and in that case the jury was offended because they felt my client had been entrapped," said Magill.
And he expects the return of "bar watch" to upset both business owners and their customers.
"People have to be stopped with probable cause, not because an officer watched them drink at a bar and watched them get in their vehicle it's just wrong," said Magill.
In peak years the Fresno Police Department was making 3200 drunk driving arrests a year, but Chief Dyer says due to the recession and cut backs on resources this year there will only be around 1400.
"I believe what we have seen in our city is that culture that we once had changed is changing again for the worse," said Chief Dyer.
Chief Dyer has already set a quota for DUI arrests for next year. He says with an increase in officers and operations he expects the number of DUI arrests to increase from 1400 this year to 2500 in 2018.