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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 5:35 am | Fair 50º


County Probation Program Increases Monitoring of Repeat DUI Offenders

Santa Barbara County's Probation Department has announced a new effort to crack down on repeat DUI offenders, who officials say still make up a significant portion of those involved with traffic collisions, sometimes involving drugs and alcohol that result in injuries or fatalities.

A $130,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety was awarded to the department to help with the effort to make sure past offenders are complying with court orders.

The funds will go toward supervision efforts of offenders who are deemed "high-risk" and will help pay for unannounced home searches, random alcohol and drug testing, and monitoring to make sure offenders are complying with court-ordered DUI education and treatment programs. The money will go toward one probation officer in Santa Maria, who will work with local law enforcement.

Probation manager Heather Bennett said there was a 15.9 percent decrease in the number of DUI arrests in the county between 2009 and 2011, and past efforts have had some impact but probation continues to be concerned.

"The numbers are still not where we would like them to be," she told Noozhawk.

In 2012, 18 people were killed and 298 injured in drug- or alcohol-related crashes in Santa Barbara County, according to the department.

Bennett said the department will be focusing on North County with the grant money "because that does seem to be where the problem is," with a high concentration of repeat DUI offenders living in Santa Maria.

In 2010, Santa Maria moved from 45th in 2009 to No. 1 in 2010 for percentage of drivers under the age of 21 who were involved in alcohol-related collisions.  

Probation has applied for the grant and been awarded it for the past five years, and Bennett said the program has been effective.

Offenders will often be asked to wear an anklet that monitors alcohol consumption and probation will be alerted immediately, Bennett said, and that the extra element of monitoring has helped decrease the likelihood that person will re-offend.

"We have actually seen some decline in the number of violations filed in the number of people who are creating new offenses while they are being monitored," she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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