Making Mountains Out of Molehills in Aspen

September 7 2006, 11:58 AM

The Sheriff's race in Aspen is heating up. If you ask me, Sheriff Bob Braudis' challenger, Rick Manguson, is full of hot air. His latest attempt to create a campaign issue involves D.U.I. enforcement. First, Manguson claims Aspen has one of the highest D.U.I. fatality rates in the state. Out of 64 Colorado counties, he says, Aspen ranks 14th in D.U.I. fatalities. How many deaths were there? Two. I'll agree that is two deaths too many, but where is the linkage to lack of D.U.I. enforcement? Manguson offers this:

Since 2004, Pitkin County deputies have averaged 27 DUI arrests annually, down two-thirds from 2003 when deputies arrested 76 people for driving under the influence, a Magnuson press release said Wednesday.

Manguson offers not a single fact to show the decrease in D.U.I. arrests is due to anything other than (a) fewer drunk drivers due to greater public awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence and (b) fewer evening drivers in the county due to the increased number of people living downvalley and outside the county limits. Instead, Manguson offers this sweeping accusation:

"The statistics don't lie: Pitkin County gets a failing grade with its biggest public safety threat and arguably its deadliest crime," Magnuson's press release said.

Sheriff Bob Braudis replies:

Sheriff Braudis said Magnuson's claims are unfounded and that his deputies have zero tolerance for drunk driving. He said drunk driving is statistically the biggest threat to life and limb in Pitkin County. "At two in the morning, the main thing on an officer's mind is getting drunk drivers off the road," Braudis said. Braudis attributed the slowdown in DUI arrests to fewer people driving drunk, thanks in part to ramped-up education and enforcement efforts over the last 20 years. "We are making as many car stops as ever," Braudis said. There are just not as many drunk drivers." ....Braudis cited a demographic shift -- more people living downvalley -- that has led to fewer people using roads in the county to get between Aspen bars and other population centers in the county. He argued it isn't worthwhile to park a deputy on Maroon Creek Road to watch a few cars go by in an hour.

Here's another thing. Manguson asserts the Aspen police are making more D.U.I. arrests than ever. It sounds to me like between the Aspen police department and the Pitkin County Sheriffs' office, the problem is more than adequately addressed. What's Manguson's solution? Is it DUI checkpoints? Random stops with roadside sobriety tests? Portable breathalyzers? No.

Magnuson criticized the sheriff's policy of changing shifts at 2 a.m., saying that if he were elected, he would keep the night shift on until 3 a.m., an hour after many bars close. He said the Aspen, Basalt and Snowmass police departments keep the night shift on until 3 a.m. Braudis defended his office's policy of changing shifts at 2 a.m., saying he wouldn't do it any differently. The department has studied traffic loads and had determined there is very little traffic outside the city limits at 2 a.m., Braudis said.

Manguson's recommendation is trivial and speculative. But, Manguson needs a campaign issue to take on the popular Sheriff. Manguson seems mired in the "war on crime" fight of the 80"s. It didn't work then and it won't work now. Education, prevention and rehabilitation are far more effective in the fight against local crime than the punitive measures Manguson supports. What's next on his agenda? Creation of a terrorist task force in Aspen? There's lots of foolish ways to waste money on unnecessary lock 'em up policies. Manguson seems determined to find them all.

Tags: