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State kicks off enhanced DWI enforcement effort

Minnesota law enforcement agencies on Friday launched a statewide "enhanced DWI enforcement effort," extending through the Labor Day weekend, to catch drunken drivers.

Minnesota law enforcement agencies on Friday launched a statewide "enhanced DWI enforcement effort," extending through the Labor Day weekend, to catch drunken drivers.

"Labor Day is the second-deadliest major holiday on Minnesota roads," Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Neil Dickenson said Friday at a news conference outside the St. Louis County Courthouse. "There have been 24 deaths in the last five years over the Labor Day holiday alone."

Dickenson said that nearly one out of four deaths on Minnesota roads is related to driving while intoxicated.

Joining the enforcement effort will be the Duluth Police Department's full-time DWI officer, Todd Simmons. It's a position paid for with state and federal funds; the department is one of 12 law enforcement agencies in Minnesota to implement a DWI enforcement program.

Duluth police Lt. Chad Nagorski said Simmons made 22 DWI arrests from the start of the program on June 1 through Aug. 9.

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While there's work yet to be done in combating drunken driving, officials said there has been improvement in recent years. DWI arrests are down 16 percent in the past five years.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Shaun Floerke, who also spoke at Friday's event, noted the growing acceptance of, for example, designated driver programs that are "changing the whole mindset" toward drinking and driving.

"People tend to think you can't change culture, you can't change behavior - but clearly on the DWI front we are," Floerke said.

Related Topics: POLICECRIME
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