Drilling down into New Year's DWI arrests in Harris County

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Mistakes happen, and the press release sent out by the Harris County Sheriff's Office on the afternoon of January 2 certainly was one.

"NO (zero, zilch, nil) New Year's Eve and New Year's Day DWI arrests!" screamed the headline on the email sent out to media outlets throughout the region.

"The Harris County Sheriff's Office is happy to report that for the first time in recent memory, the HCSO had no alcohol-related traffic accidents reported, and no DWI arrests were made during New Year's Eve and New Year's Day," according to the press release.

It even quoted the Sheriff himself: '"This is great news!" said an excited Sheriff Adrian Garcia. "I want to thank the citizens of Harris County for doing their part in making this past New Year holiday one of the safest ever on our roadways. Let's keep it up!"'

See the press release here.

The Sheriff's Office quickly retracted that release, saying there were, in fact, an undefined number of arrests made by sheriff's office.

Garcia, in a statement to ABC-13 Monday, said that zero DWI arrests is a laudable goal.

"The idea of celebrating zero arrests, not because of a lack of effort or man power, but rather thanks to personal responsibility exercised by members of the community still remains an ideal," Garcia said. "However, we know that making these arrests is keeping our roadways safe and quite possibly saving lives, including those of the drivers being arrested. I'm proud of the work of my deputies who sacrifice their holidays and time with family to make sure we all get home safely. We will continue our efforts to encourage the public to share the responsibility in keeping our roadways safe."

ABC-13 dug into the arrest numbers and found that Garcia's team was the most aggressive police force on the road New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Records show 19 DWI cases filed by Sheriff's deputies over that timeframe and another three drunk driving arrests in the runup to New Year's Eve, totalling 22.

That's more than the 20 DWI cases court records show that the Houston police filed over that same period.

Those aren't huge numbers, and apparently many New Year's revelers have gotten the message, such as the one Garcia sent out on Twitter December 31: "Remember, call a cab or Uber tonight! Celebrating responsibly is needed to make this a great New Year's Eve! I'm staying home with my family!"

But with the speak-first-verify-later press release, the sheriff missed a chance to congratulate his team on a successful New Year's Eve DWI crackdown.

In 2013, sheriff's deputies made 10 DWI arrests over the New Year's holiday.

Overall, 65 DWI cases were filed people over the 2014 New Year's holiday in jurisdictions across Harris County, including three arrests by the University of Texas police squad, which patrols parts of the Texas Medical Center.

The total arrests are down slightly over New Year's in 2013, records show, including in Harris County Constable Precinct 4, which reported a total 16 DWI-related arrests last year and two DWI-related arrests this past New Year's. null
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