The checkpoint not only targets drunkies on the road, but also unlicensed (see: undocumented) drivers, whose cars can be towed away at the scene.
The action was helped in part by Cop Watch Santa Ana, a grassroots citizen group following police activity, whos members fliered in the neighborhood about the checkpoints, which they say target the Latino community.
It's not the first and likely not the last time Santa Ana
residents helped out their compañeros
on the road, but it nonetheless intrigued passersby.
Two women on bicycles confronted one of the residents, berating her for telling potential drunk drivers to avoid the checkpoint. One driver, who wanted to be identified as Christi, was compelled to park her car at the nearby Norm's to get out and thank the residents for their efforts.
She said she's a United States citizen but her husband, who was driving her mother-in-laws' car, is undocumented. They were driving in from Los Angeles to see family in Santa Ana with their three-year-old son.
"If it weren't for you guys, we would be out in the cold tonight without a way back home," she told the group.
Drivers without licenses will have their cars are towed away at the checkpoints, unless a licensed driver picks it up within 20 minutes -- a revised city policy thanks to the hard work of Orange County May Day Coalition activists last year.
A Santa Ana Police officer on the scene said the sign-waving was not illegal, as long as the residents aren't "creating a hazard." He added that if a drunk driver avoiding the checkpoint kills one of their family members, they might be changing their tune.
Fair enough. But do the sobriety checkpoints actually live up to their intentions?
For two years in a row, the Santa Ana Police Department netted over 400 unlicensed drivers compared to a little over 100 DUI arrests through bi-monthly checkpoints.
In February, a statewide audit
concluded that checkpoints more often result in citations for unlicensed motorists or for those with suspended or revoked driver's licenses than for alcohol-related offenses.
So why are the checkpoints continuing under the guise of "sobriety" checkpoints? Revenue generation, of course!
The statewide impounding of unlicensed drivers' cars generated $40 million dollars in 2009
, which was divided up between cities and towing companies. Not to mention, police officers received $30 million in overtime. ¡Holy mole!
What a genius way to help out cash-strapped governments: punish and disenfranchise a marginalized group...and make cold hard dinero while you're at it.
UPDATE, JUNE 25, 8:30 A.M.: It appears anonymous comments made "offramp" (see below) were made from state of California server.
Could it be a certain public relations director from the Office of Traffic Safety? The same entity that pays for such checkpoints described in this post?
Oh no-- it can't be. A real professional would not commit one of the biggest PR no-no's, and definitely would never publicly disparage a reporter!
Perhaps said state worker could have kept his identity completely secret had he not been lurking on my LinkedIn profile the same day he started his astroturf campaign on our infernal rag.
Anonymously trolling numerous media outlets on the taxpayer dime is not exactly the best outreach strategy, though regurgitating the office's PR spheels at every opportunity is one way to get your message across... without your name and entity attached of course! What's with the secrecy? What do you have to say for yourself, bud?