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Citizens help nab New Year’s Eve DUIs

By Charlo Greene 9:32 PM January 1, 2014

Nine DUI arrests were made, one of which was made possible by citizen patrol, police say

ANCHORAGE - A DUI charge, three days in jail, and more than $25,000 in related costs and fees, along with the loss of the offender’s vehicle for 30 days.

That is how the nine people suspected of driving under the influence decided to bring in 2014, according to Anchorage police.

It was the witching hour in Anchorage, and Alaska’s finest were out in force. On New Year’s Eve, they were armed with an unsuspecting ally — everyday citizens bent on cleaning up the streets.

“These people just don’t seem to get the message, ‘Don’t drink and drive,”” said Nick Hornshuh, Anchorage Police Citizen Academy Alumni Association president. “Last night we decided that some of us would go out and help out, so we went out and looked for impaired drivers.”

Hours before the beginning of 2014, the department decided to do something a little different, inviting Twitter followers along for a “tweet-along” as 10 DUI patrol officers roved the streets of Anchorage.

One hour and 19 minutes into the new year and APD was responding to two suspected DUI’s, according to the APD Twitter page.

Hornshuh doesn’t pack an Anchorage Police Department issued handgun. He doesn’t wear a badge and he doesn’t have those bright blue lights built onto his vehicle. But that doesn’t stop him from providing this civil service.

“We can go out and we can be a little bit stealthier than police officers because they don’t know who we are,” Hornshuh said. “We can find someone who is driving erratically or impaired and we can call it in and APD can come in.”

As president of the APCAAA, Hornshuh joins other volunteers that act as an extension of area law enforcement.

“Citizen patrols by the Alumni have been a tremendous asset for the Anchorage Police Department and our community,” said APD spokeswoman Jennifer Castro.

By 2:10 a.m., APD was responding to four suspected DUIs.

With the department’s 10 DUI patrol officers tasked to canvass all 1,961 square miles of Anchorage, Castro says the citizen academy becomes invaluable on nights like New Year’s.

“Unfortunately we don’t have enough officers to be everywhere all the time, so when you have that extra help, that extra support to make those important calls, its been very beneficial,” Castro said.

With 80 percent of Anchorage DUI offenders not just drunk, but wasted, testing two times the legal limit, according to Castro, there’s no telling the damage that has been avoided thanks to these extra eyes and ears.

“It’s really great and refreshing to see that people are listening and caring enough to make sure everyone gets home safely and that we’re keeping our streets safe,” Castro said.

At 3:49 a.m., all 10 DUI patrol officers were responding to suspected DUIs.

By New Year’s Eve’s close, nine DUI arrests had been made, one of which was made possible by the citizen patrol, according to police.

To date, the APCAAA has helped put 26 suspected impaired drivers behind bars.

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