A crime-fighting weapon wasted?

March 1, 2011 2:14:52 PM PST
Tonight we learn how some of that money Houston made from red light cameras has been spent. And you'll be seeing red after we tell you.

None of us want drunks on the road driving next to our family, so spending money on a weapon to catch them sounds like a good idea. Red-light money paid for half of HPD's mobile fleet of breath vans. Now we are investigating, because the price tag is on your tab.

Below is a verbatim transcript of this 13 Undercover investigation. To see the story, watch the video above

I think we all agree this guy we found on YouTube should not be driving. This guy is not in great shape, either.

"And we're gonna get out there and we're gonna find some of these drunks before they get into crashes," said HPD Assistant Chief Brian Lumpkin of a new drunk driving crackdown initiative.

When HPD announced their tough DWI crackdown this month, they showcased a big weapon in their fight -- Mobile Breath Alcohol Testing vans -- They call 'em BAT vans.

Let's take a quick look inside. These BAT vans are one-stop shop.

BAT vans. Look at the sticker on the hood. Where have I seen that before?

[From Batman movie

Commissioner Gordon: Chief O'Hara, dash to the roof! Flash the bat signal.

Chief O'Hara: Yes sir. ]

So let's ask crime fighters Batman and Robin to give you the real story.

[From Batman movie:

Robin: Batman, I ?

Batman: Say no more Robin. It could be compromising.

Robin: Of course. ]

Because that BAT van, it's hardly a new weapon. You have owned six of them for more than two years.

[From Batman movie:

Batman: Listen to these riddles. Tell me if you interpret them as I do.]

What cost you more than $600,000 and is rarely used?

[From Batman movie:

Robin: A ball point banana?]

No my caped friend. It's the BAT vans.

Maybe the joke's really on Houston taxpayers.

[From Batman movie:

Batman: Precisely Robin, the only possible meaning.]

"It's a total waste of taxpayer money," said DWI Lawyer Doug Murphy.

OK, Doug Murphy is a lawyer who defends drunk driving suspects, but we've seen the records, too. HPD says it's just a big coincidence that their big crackdown came after they found out what we knew.

"One of those vans has never been used," we said.

"Correct," said HPD Traffic Enforcement's Capt. Carl Driskell.

"That $100,000 van has been sitting there collecting dust for two years," we said.

"That's correct," said Driskell.

And it's not a fluke. Another BAT van didn't process a single drunk driver in 10 months.

That BAT van has been used once in 10 months," we said.

"OK," said Driskell.

Because it didn't work.

[From Batman movie:

Robin: What's wrong Batman?

Batman: The manifold pressure is dropping. I think we better stop and check.]

Another BAT van was used just six days in the entire year.

"We've got to do a better job," said Driskell.

We were told this month the BAT vans were being parked around the city to make it easy for the patrol cops.

It's a two-year-old idea.

[From Batman movie:

Robin: Holy nightmare!

Commissioner Gordon: Batman, could it be?!

Batman: I don't know.]

"Most patrol officers did not bring their people," we said to Driskell.

"No they did not," he said.

And the DWI task force didn't listen to another order. Park the BAT van in bar parking lots.

"If we're not deploying 'em out in club parking lots, we're missing the boat," said Driskell.

We wondered, because when we spent the night watching one of the vans, it was parked in one of its favorite spots -- the back of a pizza place.

[From Batman movie:

Batman: Watch for suspicious vessels.

Robin: It looks like we got the whole ocean to ourselves.]

"You lead that horse to water, but can you make it drink?" said Driskell.

Because we did spend all that money to make us safer.

[From Batman movie:

Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes.]

Tuesday night at 10, we'll expose the maintenance troubles with these crime-fighting weapons. Should we be using them to convict anyone? Tomorrow night, same time, same bat station.