Bozeman DUI Arrests Up 22% in 2009

by jhwygirl

Today’s Bozeman Chronicle has a story up compiling city police statistics for 2009.

While most crime declined, DUI arrests were up 22% – from 491 in 2008 to 600 in 2009.

I point this out only as another bit of anecdotal evidence that Montana has a drinking problem.

I don’t know if Missoula City Police do this…or if our county Sheriff’s Department does it either…but I’m sure plenty of us would all find the numbers interesting. There’s always been a tendency to downplay violent crimes here, too. I’d say this might be a good way of assessing, overall, how the community is addressing any number of problems.

The solution isn’t purely tougher laws – Montana’s well beyond that when it’s regular media fare to have 4th and 5th DUI arrests and domestic violence crimes in the news. We need to start with solutions geared towards our children and our culture.

Bottom up solutions are often less costly in the long run than dealing with the issue on the tail end. Beyond the monetary concerns, think of the lives impacted by what publicly begins with an arrest. The tragedies are far reaching.

  1. klemz

    I disagree. Montana has a driving problem.

  2. problembear

    when people lose their jobs many of them drink more. same thing happened in russia after the collapse of the soviet union. a predictable result of the flat-lining economy would be more drunk driving arrests.

    this probably won’t get better until jobs improve. mid-2011 at best according to um…..

  3. Anon

    I wonder how many of the 109 additional people that got caught in 2009 just didn’t get caught in 2008? Is the increase in numbers due to an actual increase in the amount of DUI or is it just better enforcement? Perhaps it’s a combination of both. Impossible to determine with a high level statistic like that.

  4. Pogo Possum

    Arrest records can be very deceptive and misleading. During my grad school days I had the privilege of working with an accomplished urban historian whose research often involved interpreting decades of police arrest records. He frequently found the surges in arrests for specific types of criminal activity within communities (e.g., prostitution, public drunkenness, illegal gambling, petty theft, etc.) were often the result of increased police enforcement due to political election year cycles and public attitudes. Just because police are arresting more or less people for DUIs doesn’t mean there is an increase or decrease in people driving while intoxicated.

    I am not saying Montana has or doesn’t have a problem with alcohol consumption, just keep in mind Disraeli’s advice: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”

    • JC

      I have to agree with PoPo here. Numbers of people arrested for DUI has as much to do with police discretion as anything. And that discretion can take on many forms, like current public attitudes and election cycles. It also can be affected by things like union activity, layoffs/understaffing, morale, jail census, judicial leniency, etc.

      I have felt that many, many times people have not been arrested for DUi when they could have–and should have–been.

      @klemz: Montana has a drinking AND a driving problem. Many people have drinking problems and don’t drive. But those that do both usually don’t think their drinking leads to a driving problem. Until it does.

  5. Did anyone read the post? I used the word anecdotal

    Did anyone click the link to the Bozeman article? And actually read it? It offers some insight into why the arrest number would be higher.

    But if ya’all are OK with 600 DUI arrests in one year in one Montana city – regardless of whether it’s an increase, and irrespective of the logical assumption that they’re only catching a percentage of those actually out there drinking and driving – good for you.

    Me? I believe Montana has a drinking problem, and so do a whole hell of a lot of other people.


    • klemz

      Montana will always have a drinking problem. No amount of public education will change the fact that there’s not much to do in rural areas that either doesn’t involve booze or can’t be significantly augmented by booze (or other).

      JC, I’m just trying to say that more than simply the DUI problem would be solved if people had a realistic an d consistent grasp of the physical potential of a motor vehicle. How people manage to suppress the realization that they’re operating an incredibly dangerous instrument and maybe should exercise a little care will baffle me until the day gas becomes prohibitively expensive.

      • JC

        Unfortunately, klemz, it’s not you that is baffled. It’s those that drink and drive that are baffled. “Cunning baffling, and powerful…” is how the AA folks put it.

        Drinking takes away the ability to reason about the dangers of driving while intoxicated at the point of decision making. That’s the simple explanation for the majority of DUIs, and for unarrested drunk drivers. Man of these people just don’t think it is going to cause them a problem.

        The other explanation, and this goes for most repeat offenders, is that they have decided to just not give a shit anymore.

        Asking drunks and alcoholics to have “a realistic and consistent grasp of the physical potential of a motor vehicle” is just not going to happen, as much as we wish it would. People leave their best intentions and rational thought behind when they head out the door to party. That’s the nature of alcohol’s impact on human reasoning.

        How do you combat it? You make it a family, community, and cultural issue. If you leave it an issue of personal responsibility, you will fail. Which is why the frontier mentality of Montana, with its libertarian emphasis on personal liberty fails when it comes to preventing DUIs.

        The last thing libertarians want is for their family, community or a cultural norm to tell them they can’t drink and drive. It’s a basic in-you-face f*ck you, I can do what I want attitude.

        In the old west no one cared if you got drunk and fell off your horse and broke your neck and died. Basic darwinian process. But that doesn’t cut it in a world where other people bear the brunt of the consequences of unrestrained libertarianism.

    • Pogo Possum

      Yes, I did read the article. And yes, there is anecdotal evidence that an increase in DUI arrests may be a direct result of increased enforcement and a “change in strategy.” I don’t want to split hairs here, but you started off your comments by stating “While most crime declined, DUI arrests were up. . .” and then went on to say that this is “. . . another bit of anecdotal evidence that Montana has a drinking problem” You were placing more emphasis on the “DUI arrests were up” argument for proving a drinking problem than the 600 arrests. I did not see any anecdotal evidence that this “increase” was anecdotal proof of a drinking problem but more of a change in police strategy and enforcement.

      I agree with you, Montana may have a drinking problem, but even the 600 arrests number, once we start subtracting all those arrested for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th times could simply prove that a small minority of Montana’s have a very, very serious drinking problem.

  6. Pogo Possum

    Here is a partial solution to the DUI problem. I suspect people driving under the influence fall into two general catagories: those who know they are over the limit and drive any way and those who don’t (for what ever reason)realize they are over the limit and wouldn’t drive if they knew they were.

    Require all drivers to carry a working approved alcohol breathalyzer in their car. This won’t solve the problem for everyone, but it will give some folks a mandated opportunity to double check themselves before they drive after they have had a few drinks.

    • Pogo Possum

      Go to and order the BACTrack S80, a high quality breathalyzer. The $149.00 price includes shipping. it takes 20 seconds to check your BAC. Carry it in your car, use it everytime you have had even one drink and keep yourself and others safe.

  7. Big City

    Why are DUI rates higher in rural states as opposed to urban states???

    One guess would be public transportation. Boston has a low rate of DUIs and the reason is not that they drink less than anyone else in the country. Its because NO ONE drives to or from bars.

    It is not rocket science people.

    • Pogo Possum

      Good point Big City.

    • So by your rocket science analysis, it’s OK to drink and drive in Montana because we don’t have widespread public transportation?

      Drinking and driving is a drinking problem. Or maybe I should start looking at it as if Montana has a driving problem?

      Is that what you’re saying?

  8. Pogo Possum

    Calm down jhwyGirl. We are not trying to pick a fight with you on this subject nor are we trying to disrespect you. We are simply attempting to offer some perspective on the statistics you quote.

    • Pogo Possum

      I think what Big City and others are suggesting is that if you sit at home with your loved one and drink a couple of bottles of wine to celebrate Valentines Day then go to bed at night no one cares. If you walk or take a bus or subway to your local pub to do the same, again no one cares. But if you get into a car at the end of the evening and attempt to drive home, you and some unlucky pedistrian or car on the road may have a very serious problem. Same amount of alchohol comsumption but very different outcomes based on the decision to drive.

      • Pogo Possum

        With all sincerity, if I don’t get the chance to mention this before the weekend…….may you and your loved one have a very happy and safe Valentine’s Day.

    • I didn’t say anyone was picking a fight, nor did I say anyone was disrespecting me. Where are you getting that? Merely from my disagreement?

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