Huntsville police's DUI task force is about to ramp back up.
Starting next week, the task force will go back to the overnight shift, something they were pulled off of at the beginning of the year. Police say they've seen a dip in alcohol-related arrests in the first four months of this year versus last.
In 2018, there were 166 arrests in the first quarter. In 2019, there have been fewer than a hundred.
Sergeant Michael Nelson is the DUI task force supervisor. He said because of traffic concerns when Cecil Ashburn Drive closed in January, DUI task force officers were taken off their overnight shift and started working traffic enforcement from 6 in the morning until about 3 in the afternoon.
"Their primary function was to monitor the primary arteries coming in and out of Huntsville to make sure traffic was functioning like it should," said Nelson.
Nelson spent 8 years as a task force officer before becoming the supervisor last month. He's noticed a change in the impaired drivers they were arresting.
"We noticed drug impairment or drug-related DUI's increased versus the alcohol DUI's, so more people are using drugs and driving during the daytime hours than during the nighttime hours," said Nelson.
Nelson said they have plenty of grant money that will allow the task force to set up checkpoints, something drivers can expect in May.
"We're working overtime. We are working DUI checkpoints. We are going to be out there enforcing the laws and making sure people are driving sober," he said.
Nelson said he didn't have an exact number on alcohol-related fatalities this year, but he knows the number was higher than in the first quarter of 2018, something police hope checkpoints will put a stop to.
"I believe it's more of drivers making the wrong decision. There are other officers out there who are able to do DUI's, but we don't have a dedicated task force at night working DUI's, so that may play a small portion in it, but I think it's mainly drivers making poor decisions," said Nelson.
Huntsville police want to remind drivers that although the DUI task force won't be back out on the streets until next week, all officers are trained on how to look for impaired drivers and if you don't drive sober, you will get pulled over.
Nelson said the task force plans on setting up at least one checkpoint a week, starting in May. The department is hoping to put a stop to drinking and driving.