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New DUI Detail in Anchorage is Paying Off

Anchorage, Aug. 6- Accidents caused by drunk drivers have become all too familiar stories in Anchorage, with often tragic endings. Now Anchorage police have a DWI detail looking for these drivers seven days a week, and their efforts appear to pay off. Just in the last week, officers made 50 drunk driving-related arrests, with 17 of those this weekend.

The arrest numbers are big, but the problem isn’t getting worse. There are simply more police officers to take drunk drivers off the streets.

Anchorage Police Department Officer Walter Barsch begins patrolling Anchorage streets around 10 p.m. Saturday. He is trying to find drunk drivers, and the way he looks for them is by pulling over every driver with expired plates, broken headlights or any other traffic violation.

“You find a lot of people without valid drivers’ licenses and no insurance, and it’s just a reason for me to pull them over,” he said.

If the driver is drunk, Barsch will have a long night. It takes at least two and a half hours to process a drunk driving arrest if the suspect cooperates.

“If it gets hard where there’s gonna be blood drawn and the person is uncooperative, it can go for hours,” Barsch said.

At 11:23 p.m., Barsch makes his ninth traffic stop of the night after a driver runs a red light. The driver fails each of the field sobriety tests but one. Later during a breathalyzer test, however, the suspect blows a zero-zero-zero. In other words, no alcohol reading. But the arrest and the paperwork will keep Barsch tied up until 2:30 a.m.

While Barsch is busy working on the stop, other officers arrest and process two other drunk driving suspects, and more are waiting on the streets. Like a 15-year-old who police say took a motorhome from Clippership Motorhome Rentals for a joy ride after a couple of beers.

“As long as there’s alcohol and people driving, you’re going to have people that make bad decisions,” Barsch said at

The question remains: Are people making more bad decisions? Or did the recent rash of DWI accidents just get our attention?

“We get 32 DWIs in a weekend and (people say), ‘Wow! DWIs are getting bad.’ No, that’s the way it’s always been,” Barsch said. “It’s just (that) now we have the officers out there to make the stops.

“The extra patrols are funded by grant money, which will pay for them through Labor Day. APD doesn’t say yet what will happen after that date.