To start off the month of December, the Anchorage Police Department issued a challenge to the community: keep the APD Christmas tree free of ornaments. For every charge of OUI — operating under the influence — that the department filed, a blue ribbon was tied to the tree.

"There’s just so many other things you can do other than get behind the wheel of that car and potentially end your life or the life of someone else," Renee Oistad, spokeswoman with the Anchorage Police Department, said.

The tree soon filled up, however. Midway through December, the department ran out of blue ribbons and had to change to a new color. 

"Week three didn’t go very well," APD said in an Instagram post. "We made 36 OUI arrests from December 15th through the 21st. That’s 36 more ribbons on the tree. We ran out of blue ribbon (so did Costco) so we switched to plaid and had to start tying bows on the side because the front is full. This is no good. Don’t drive drunk or high. It just isn’t worth it."

Through Dec. 14 the department claimed there were 59 ribbons on the tree. Add in the additional 36 and that makes 95 OUI charges just before Christmas. By the end of the month, APD had made 162 arrests.

Keep in mind, these numbers are just in the month of December.

APD says it made 130 OUI arrests in December 2016. That number rose to 139 in the last month of 2017 and was topped in 2018 with 150 December arrests. 

"I hope that it evokes some type of emotion whether it's surprise or anger or disappointment or even some fear," Oistad said. "Because these are the people that you're sharing your roadways with and hopefully that emotion will evoke some kind of response."

It's a trend local bars and restaurants don't want to be a part of. Matt Tomter is the owner of Matanuska Brewing Company and says on New Year's Eve, like every night, all of his locations look out for the safety of the customer. 

"We don't want over consumption," Tomter said. "We want everyone to have a good time, get everybody home safe, encourage people to take an Uber or Lyft if they’ve been drinking at all."

As more incentive, Tomter says all designated drivers receive free non-alcoholic drinks.

Downtown, 49th State Brewing Company also expected large crowds and was prepared, including for people who might try to come into the business already intoxicated. 

"We'll have security that’s watching people coming in, so if people are coming in intoxicated, we’re obviously going to stop that — don’t let them in the building," said General Manager Chad Kaina.

The best thing anyone can do if they're going to be using alcohol or marijuana, at any time of year, according to APD, is plan ahead. And if you’re not 100% sober, don't drive.

If you see someone driving who you think is impaird, Oistad said to call 911.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that the numbers of OUI arrests APD says it made in previous years were made in the month of December.

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