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2 York County police officers win DUI Top Gun awards
Two York County police officers were recently honored for their DUI-enforcement efforts, receiving awards they've been given several times.
The Pennsylvania DUI Association gave 2014 DUI Top Gun awards to Daniel Zimmerman, an officer in the Northern York County Regional Police Department, and Wrightsville police officer Michael Carpenter.
This is Carpenter's fifth time taking home the award, and Zimmerman has won three times. The pair of York countians were among the 21 municipal law enforcement officers and 45 state troopers honored.
Wrightsville Police Chief Ron Hege said Carpenter's effectiveness is a product of hard work.
"It's due diligence," he said.
He said many drivers who have been drinking cut through the borough on Route 462 in the hopes of avoiding the busy Route 30, which often has a police presence.
Carpenter made 62 DUI arrests in 2014, the chief said.
Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel said Zimmerman has managed to continue his normal good work in DUI enforcement even though his shift has changed, leaving him working only about half of peak DUI time.
"He's just a guy who obviously has honed his skills and ability," Bentzel said. "He's very effective."
Zimmerman had 56 DUI arrests in 2014.
Enforcement: Bentzel said the fight against drunken driving will continue to be a protracted one.
"I wish I could say we're winning the battle," he said. "I don't know if the number of people (driving while under the influence) ever really increases and decreases."
George Geisler, the Pennsylvania DUI Association's director of law-enforcement services for the eastern part of the state, said it appears fewer people are drinking and driving, but law enforcement has recently become more aware of people driving under the influence of drugs.
Both he and Bentzel guessed it isn't that more people are doing drugs, but rather that law enforcement is better at detecting when people are using them.
Drunken-driving crashes and the number of people who die from them every year in Pennsylvania have seen a steady decline over the past decade. Crashes were down to 10,550 in 2014 from 13,624 a decade earlier; 333 died in DUI-related crashes last year, whereas 541 were killed in 2004, according to data from the DUI Association.
DUI-related crash deaths are declining at a faster rate than total vehicle-crash deaths, which are also dropping, according to the data.
Arrests of people allegedly driving under the influence have remained relatively constant over the past 10 years, bouncing around in the low- to mid-50,000s. But a decade ago, only around 13 percent of the arrests were drug-related — now, that's closing in on 40 percent.
"People understand that it's not cool to drink and drive, though now we're replacing drinking and driving with our drug stuff," said Geisler, a former Newberry Township police officer.
"That's the trend across the nation, for the most part."
Often, the drugs people are found to be under the influence of are legal medications such as Xanax. But that doesn't make it any better in terms of DUI-related charges.
"A drug is any substance other than food intended to affect any function of the human body," he said. That includes over-the-counter and prescription drugs, which many times people use too much — often without bad intent, according to Geisler.
And those kinds of drug problems are compounded when people drink even a little bit of alcohol, he said.
"It magnifies the effect," Geisler said.
— Reach Sean Cotter at email@example.com.