For the last six years, the Puyallup Police Department has benefited from receiving funds from the Target Zero Team against impaired driving.
This year, however, the department is facing a significant cutback from that funding.
The Target Zero Team is part of the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission as an enforcement against impaired driving. Puyallup was one of the agencies receiving funding to crack down on impaired driving.
According to Sgt. Joe Pihl, the department received $2,850 in TZT funding, which was cut back from more than $10,000 it received in years past.
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Puyallup wasn’t the only agency to see reduced funding from the program. All agencies in Pierce County who had received funds in previous years received reduced funding.
“Pierce County, for the upcoming year, received $25,000 TZT funds to divide between participating agencies,” said Gloria Mansfield, coordinator of the DUI & Traffic Safety Task Force in Pierce County. “Previously, Pierce County received as much as $140,000 annually for TZT; in 2014 the amount had been reduced to $82,000.”
For Puyallup specifically, Pihl says the department will do the best it can with the funds given to ensure Puyallup is safe.
“The funding gives us the ability to put more officers out to detect impaired drivers,” he said.
With the reduction in TZT funding, Pihl and others at PPD will have to work smarter to continue to reduce impaired drivers locally.
“We will look at peak times and locations for impaired drivers,” he said. “We will also work in high probability areas.”
Peak times, according to Pihl, occur shortly after bars close around 1 a.m.
Despite the reduction in funding, the TZT pilot project has been successful. According to Mansfield, the six-year-long TZT pilot reduced impaired driving by more than 42 percent in Pierce County.
“In the county in 2014, there were 11 alcohol-impaired driving deaths on our roads,” she said. “The lowest ever in Pierce County.”
The pilot concluded Sept. 30, which proved to troopers, deputies and local law enforcement who work in the areas of Pierce County with the highest numbers of deaths and injuries as a result of impaired driving, can make a difference.
“The Washington State Patrol is continuing to fund the trooper portion of the team who work all the problem areas of our county, not just the freeway,” Mansfield said. “Vigorous DUI enforcement is still very much alive in Pierce County.”
Now that the pilot has concluded, Mansfield is hopeful that the state Legislature will decide to continue funding TZT to reduce impaired driving.
The Puyallup Police Department will still conduct its annual DUI emphasis on March 17 with other local TZT agencies, Pihl said.
“During last year’s emphasis, there were 11 DUI arrests, one drug-related arrest and two DUI blood search warrants issued,” he said.