In an effort to catch more drunk drivers, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department DWI Task Force is going incognito. All of its officers now drive unmarked police cars.
The purpose of the change is obvious – to catch more impaired drivers. And so far, according to news reports, the method is working. Arrests are up.
Are Unmarked Police Cars Better?
There’s no doubt that unmarked police cars are great for catching offenders, particularly speeders, who tend to slow down when a police car is in view. But it’s not exactly clear how they would stop more impaired drivers, since generally people who have been drinking don’t scan the road before making their decision to drink and drive. Moreover, the things they do that reveal that they’re drunk are generally involuntary – weaving, hopping the curb, or otherwise driving inconsistently.
There is, in fact, a case for marked police cars: they advertise a police presence, which makes people think twice about driving drunk in the first place. A person who sees a police car on the way to a restaurant is more likely to avoid the risk of an arrest, and will refrain from drunk driving.
The final proof will be in the numbers. We await the statistics on DWI arrests and crashes in Charlotte-Mecklenburg when the unmarked cars have been operating for a year.
Until then, don’t drink and drive, in North Carolina, or anywhere else. That police car you don’t see might be on your tail.