Monday, November 24, 2014
Bensalem: DUI arrests up 25 percent with in-house blood testing
Posted: Saturday, November 22, 2014
When the Bensalem Police Department launched its new in-house blood testing for those suspected of driving under the influence, officers expected to see more arrests.
But a 25 percent increase in less than three months exceeded their expectations, Director of Public Safety Fred Harran said.
Most Bucks County police departments, including Bensalem, test the blood of suspected intoxicated drivers, which is considered the gold standard for DUI prosecutions. Until September, though, Bensalem used blood tests only when a driver was suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.
When an officer believed alcohol was involved, the suspect was taken to police headquarters for a breathalyzer test, which measured the concentration of alcohol exhaled from the lungs. Breathalyzers were used because they saved time; taking a suspect to a hospital for a blood test can keep an officer off the street for as long as 90 minutes.
Since implementing the in-house blood tests — Bensalem is the first Bucks County police department to operate a phlebotomy lab — DUI arrests have jumped when compared to the same time period in 2013, Harran said.
Bensalem logged 70 DUI arrests between September and Nov. 15 — with the bulk of the increase since September, when the in-house blood draws started, Harran said. During the same two-plus months in 2013, the department had 52 DUI arrests.
Last year, Bensalem made 214 arrests for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
With the new testing, paramedics with the Bensalem Emergency Rescue Services draw and test the blood in a room where police once performed breathalyzer tests. They’re notified when blood draws are needed through the county radio room.
“What is happening is because they’re able to get back on the street quicker, they have more time to spend looking, and arresting, people who are driving under the influence,” Harran said.