Here’s a story from today’s Herald that doesn’t show Lowell in a good light.
Lowell No. 1 in checkpoint arrests of drunken drivers
If you are a cop hunting drunken drivers, there’s a lot to like about Lowell.
Based on a review of five years’ worth of state police sobriety checkpoint data, the Mill City boasts more drunken driving arrests than any other checkpoint in the state: 343 since January 2009.
It has also been the most productive sobriety checkpoint in the state, with troopers bagging 12.7 drunks on average every time they set up on Thorndike Street, compared to the state average of 7.5.
“We see a lot of OUIs in that area,” said state police Lt. Col. Edward Amodeo, commander of the field services section, which runs uniformed patrols. “It’s a feeder road to 495, the Lowell Connector and Route 3. It’s in an urban environment where there are a lot of alcohol establishments.”
Lowell’s Merrimack Valley neighbor — Lawrence — came in second in terms of the number of alleged drunks arrested at checkpoints in the last five years, with 273. Amodeo said state police set up three separate locations in that city, and data shows they arrest 9.4 drunks each time.
The Hub comes in a distant third to Lowell with 251 drunken driving arrests by troopers at 30 checkpoints.
“The fact that this particular area is the highest in the state I would say is concerning to me,” said state Rep. Thomas Golden of Lowell, who has been active on substance abuse prevention efforts. “I think it would be concerning to everybody in the area.”
Amodeo said state police chose the location in Lowell based on rigid, data-driven guidelines dictated by the courts, with the timing and placement of sobriety checkpoint based on the number of OUI arrests made by regular patrols in the area, the number of roadway fatalities, the time those are occurring, and the success of past checkpoints in the area.
The work at the checkpoints is paying off, according to numbers supplied by the state police. Booze-fueled vehicle fatalities were down 8.5 percent between 2013 and 2014 — from 129 to 118. And total vehicle fatalities were also down in that same timeframe: from 383 to 326.
As the Herald reported earlier this year, state police have scaled back their use of checkpoints, with fewer set up each year since 2009. In 2013, checkpoints accounted for about 9.6 percent of the overall number of drunken driving arrests.
In Lowell, troopers arrested 88 drunken drivers in 2009, followed by 65 in 2010, and 82 in 2011. That number dropped to 31 in 2013.
John Leahy, vice president of Lowell City Council, said he has not seen any indication that Lowell businesses are behaving in ways that could increase the number of drunken drivers on the road.
“I would think that our restaurants and bars are responsible,” he said. “I’m glad the checkpoints are working. I’m sure it’s not related to anything in the downtown of Lowell.”
Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce President Joseph Bevilaqua said the business community also supports state police efforts to crack down on drunken driving.
“I really don’t have an answer as to why there would be so many on the road,” he said.
“I can tell you businesses are concerned about their employees and their family safety going to and from work. No one wants to see an unsafe driver on the road.”
Jack Encarnacao contributed to this report.