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Councilman Tackles DUI Problem in South Side

Pittsburgh Councilman Bruce Kraus is calling on citizens and liquor licensees to join police efforts to quell the "epidemic" of drunk driving in the city.

Kraus heard testimony about the problem from community members, law enforcement, and the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving at a post-agenda meeting on Tuesday.

Much of the talks focused on the city's South Side, which has one of the highest DUI rates in Pennsylvania and is part of Kraus's council district. But Pittsburgh Police Commander Scott Schubert said the problem is city-wide. "From 2007 until 2010, the City of Pittsburgh has made roughly 4,929 impaired driving arrests," said Schubert, adding that more than 1,600 of those involved crashes. He said the South Side's Carson Street has one of the highest DUI rates in his department's jurisdiction, but there are also high numbers of drunk drivers on State Routes 279 and 376.

Michael Clark of the South Side Community Council said his block of Jane Street experienced two DUI crashes within six weeks last year. He said the problem is on the rise.

"2010 was marked by the December 5th DUI homicide of seven-year-old Lexa Cleland with the alleged perpetrator in jail, awaiting trial, and a lawsuit pending against him and the establishment that allegedly served him,," said Clark. "Yet DUIs have actually increased since that event."

Kraus called on restaurateurs to obey the Pennsylvania law that prevents them from selling alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron. Kraus said he'd also like to increase police patrols within bars, but acknowledged that resources are limited.

"In Pennsylvania Liquor Control enforcement, we are looking at about 32 positions, with a hiring freeze on ten, so we have about 22 positions filled to manage liquor enforcement over six counties and 4,800 alcohol licenses," said Kraus.

The District 3 Councilman said this post-agenda meeting was the first of a series aimed at identifying and reversing the problem of DUIs in the city.