KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- They get drunk drivers off the road, but now sobriety checkpoints are in jeopardy in Missouri. A possible shift comes amid a drastic cut in state funding.
Police say in just one night, 41 drunk drivers were stopped at 33rd Street and Southwest Trafficway. Kansas City officers won`t be announcing anymore of these efforts for the time being, as the department has suspended checkpoints until Missouri House Bill 4 gets resolved.
“My fear is that innocent lives will be taken because people will be driving impaired,” said Leann Lewis.
She strongly supports police checkpoints, and is the president of the Heartland Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD. She got involved with the organization after losing her father to a repeat drunk driver on a Missouri road, and she`s not the only one feeling frustrated with the state.
“We`re very disappointed to hear how this legislation is moving along. We believe it will have a profound negative effect on the safety of Missourians and specifically those in Kansas City,” said Sgt. Christopher Bentch, a DUI section supervisor or KCPD.
Representative Scott Fitzpatrick of Shell Knob sponsored House Bill 4, which cuts funding for checkpoints to just one dollar. He`s instead in favor of saturation patrols where officers fan out in a certain area, as opposed to checkpoints that put them in one location.
Local law enforcement departments that use them both say the checkpoints get more drunk drivers off of the road. They`re responsible for nearly 30 percent of DWI arrests in Kansas City according to police.
"I would challenge anybody to do a saturation patrol to get 41 drunks in one evening,” said Sgt. Bentch.
“We have no idea how many people he saved and their department saved by removing those 41 impaired drivers,” said Lewis.
Sgt. Bentch says traffic fatalities are going up in the metro, with a large majority being alcohol related.
“We`re trending in the wrong direction, and taking a tool away from us is not going to make that situation better,” he said.
With the state budget being reopened, MADD is asking folks to reach out to the governor and ask that funding for checkpoints to continue.
Rep. Fitzpatrick say the patrols are more effective at getting impaired drivers off the road, as well as being more cost-effective.