Kent OVIs continue decline, new police report shows

Ryan Lewis

Kent Police Chief Michelle Lee presented the department’s 2013 Annual Report to Kent City Council last Wednesday with two significant takeaways.

According to the report, arrests for operating a vehicle while impaired again saw a decline. The department made 205 OVI-related arrests in 2013, 72 fewer than 2012 and 231 fewer than 2004, the highest mark in the past decade.

Lee attributes a number of factors to the decline and said it’s more of a national trend than anything the department itself is doing.

“Some of the reasons are [that] employers are looking at background histories for perspective employees and the courts are now hammering [OVI-related arrests] hard as far as suspensions and fines,” Lee said. “It’s also public education and things like MADD [Mothers Against Drunk Driving] and SADD [Students Against Destructive Decisions], organizations that target OVI-related driving.”

But the underlying theme for the decline, Lee said, is that it’s simply not as socially acceptable to drive while impaired. Lee related this decline to the increase in seat belt use several decades ago.

Parking Tickets

Total parking tickets

  • 3,495 in 2013; 2,565 in 2012 (36 percent increase)

Revenue from parking tickets:

  • $82,298 in 2013; $56,204 in 2012 (46 percent increase)

OVI-related arrests:

  • 205 in 2013; 277 in 2012 (25 percent decrease)

“Before seat belts were mandatory, few people wore them,” Lee said. “But then you saw commercials, ads, and it was in the fore-front about how deadly it could be. Slowly over the years, you saw the switch. That’s what’s going on here.”

Lee also believes these numbers will continue to decline and then level off in a few years.

“In a 10-year span, I see it declining some more, but people make mistakes,” she said. “People are going to drink. They’re going to think they’re OK. It’ll always happen, but not at the rate it has in the past.”

The report also highlighted a rise in the number of parking tickets written — a 37-percent spike from 2012 to 2013.

Per the report, officers wrote 3,492 parking tickets in 2013, 930 more than 2012. Thanks to a high-tech ticket-writing system, the department saw an even greater increase in total funds from those tickets.

Kent police brought in $82,298 as a direct result of parking tickets — up 46 percent over 2012 ($56,204), according to the report, for an increase of $26,904.

The new parking ticket system, CodeSoft, enables officers to write parking tickets on a tablet, making the ticket electronic as well. The officer also has a small portable printer that straps across the shoulder.

The tablet cost the department $1,260 and the software is $325 a month ($3,900 a year), according to the police department, meaning the system paid for itself five times over in its first year of full use.

Part of the reason for the higher rate of return of paid parking tickets is that officers can write tickets faster with this software. However, the biggest factor, Lee said, is the electronic system makes it easier for people to pay. The impulse to ignore the ticket has decreased along with the hassle of paying it.

“I think they thought if they’re not coming back [to Kent] or something, how much trouble could they be in, so they just didn’t write it,” Lee said. “This just makes things easier for everyone.”

The report also states that eight of the 10 main crime categories remained fairly consistent from 2012 to 2013. OVI-related arrests and arson were the two exceptions. The department noted a decrease in arson from 10 in 2012 to four in 2013.

Upon the conclusion of Lee’s report to city council Wednesday night, Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala and several other council members congratulated Lee and her work.

Fiala said he has been pleased with Lee’s leadership since becoming chief in January of 2011.

“We’re very consciousness of having the safety of our residents at hand,” he said. “We have a first-class police department and a first-class fire department, as well. Chief Lee has done a wonderful job bringing the police department into the next age.”

Contact Ryan Lewis at [email protected].