The largest multiagency DUI sting operation in South Miami history was conducted on a recent Friday night on US1 near Sunset Drive. The police department’s “Santa’s DUI Checkpoint” yielded 34 arrests made (17 for DUI), 256 summons issued, and 1844 community contacts or conversations initiated between patrolling officers and vehicle operators.
For four hours from 10pm to 2:30am on December 9, police officers from 13 different agencies such as the City of Miami, Pinecrest, Coral Gables, University of Miami and Florida Highway Patrol were stationed along with SMPD officers between 63 and 64 Avenue on US1. “It went like clockwork,” said Chief of Police Martinez de Castro. “We worked the north and south sides of US1 simultaneously and in the middle medium we had a generator set up with two officers on computers running licenses and tags.”
The meticulously coordinated operation is known as a “shoot” process whereby the outside far right lane is reserved to keep traffic flowing. The center lane is the “shoot” where officers are systematically checking vehicles for inebriated drivers along with standard requirements like a driver’s license, insurance and registration. The inside lane or work lane is reserved for suspect vehicles requiring more officer attention such as conducting sobriety tests.
“This is a very mechanical process because you cannot stop traffic. We do not arbitrarily pull people over but rather it is a very uniform process. We have 10 cars at a time in the shoot, we look in the vehicle for one to two minutes tops before determining if they require more attention,” said Chief Martinez de Castro.
The operation was publicized days ahead of time through press releases and two days prior to the checkpoint electronic signs on US 1 announced the imminent operation. As required by law an exit is situated prior to the checkpoint to allow vehicles to leave the area.
The prevention aspect of the operation is just as critical as the operation itself according to Major Rene Landa. “Whether you were planning on drinking and driving that night or whether you managed to avoid the checkpoint, the message is the same and has been for years and years: do not drink and drive. How do I know that one of those 17 DUI arrests that night would not have gone on to commit a tragedy in some families life if they were not caught?”