Law enforcement agencies across Galveston County reported a quieter than usual holiday season, despite increased patrols in search of drunken drivers.
Galveston County jail officials booked 72 people on felony warrants between Dec. 24, 2017, and Jan. 1 this year, compared to 104 in 2016 and 84 in 2015, according to data provided to The Daily News.
Dickinson Police Department saw only one DWI-related arrest between Dec. 24, 2017, and Jan. 1 compared to three in 2016, said Sgt. Tim Cromie, spokesman for the department.
The total number of offenses also declined from 56 in 2016 to 33 this year, Cromie said.
The decline comes even as law enforcement agencies increased patrols with the help of state funding. The Texas Department of Transportation pays law enforcement agencies in the county about $165,000 a year to increase drunken driving-related patrols on major holidays, officials said.
Not all drunken driving-related arrests are felonies, but the increased patrols do put more officers on the streets to deal with crime of all sorts, said Kelly Williamson, spokesman for the League City Police Department.
Despite the apparent decline in arrests over the holidays, officials with several agencies were still glad for the increased resources.
“We want to be prepared to have the assets in case we need them,” Galveston Police Department spokesman Capt. Joshua Schirard said. “We want to make sure we have crime scene investigators, critical incident guys and everything else available. We were fortunate this weekend to have no really major incidents.”
The Texas Department of Transportation through the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program, or STEP, reimburses agencies for hours of overtime pay that officials then break down based on the holiday, said Tracy Keele, Galveston County Sheriff’s Office patrol commander.
“I haven’t totaled up New Year’s Eve yet, but it will probably end up being about 40 hours of overtime pay,” Keele said. “They also reimburse mileage, so we’re probably looking at about $1,500 to $2,000.”
Texas Department of Transportation officials have provided the grant for six years as a means of combating what is typically an increase of people driving while intoxicated on major holidays.
During the 2015-16 Christmas season — Dec. 1, 2017, to Jan. 1 — there were 2,374 alcohol-related traffic crashes in Texas, resulting in 102 fatalities and 205 serious injuries, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
While Galveston County officials said arrests typically increase over the holidays, this year has been an exception.
“It has been unusually quiet for this time of year,” Williamson said. “There isn’t a real definitive reason that we can put on that.”
Some law enforcement experts said the decrease could be because of recent frigid weather.
“Typically, either the holidays are quiet or they aren’t,” Friendswood Police Chief Bob Wieners said. “I think in this particular case, due to some weather keeping folks inside, you didn’t see the activity like we’ve seen in recent years.”
A cold front moving into Texas over the weekend dropped temperatures in Galveston County starting late New Year’s Eve, records show.
“Whatever the case, you just celebrate it when it occurs,” Wieners said of the decline. “You know as well as I do that that could change very quickly.”