Officer hammers drunken drivers

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Ted Sullivan
Sunday, March 29, 2009
— When it comes to drunken drivers, officer Shawn Welte is king of the streets.

The Janesville police officer hits the beat with vigor on third shift, sniffing out drunks, tailing them relentlessly and handing them his bust card.

“I’m very aggressive,” Welte said. “I don’t give breaks either.”

Welte made 46 drunken-driving arrests in 2008, tops in the city. He accounted for 10 percent of the police department’s drunken-driving tickets. The department recently honored him for his effort.

“He’s definitely our DUI enforcement guy.” Sgt. Craig Klementz said. “He’s out there hounding every night.”

A warning to intoxicated drivers: Beware of this DUI hunter.

Welte has been with the police department for 11 years, and he’s been assigned to third shift most of his career. His drunken-driving arrests typically happen between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.

He has seen a lot of action downtown and along Milton Avenue, but he patrols aggressively in all parts of the city.

“I don’t sit still,” Welte said. “I drive all over the place.”

He once found a 62-year-old woman passed out behind the wheel on Riverside Drive and Center Avenue. The car was running and the headlights were on.

“I asked her, ‘Do you know where you are?’” Welte said.

“She said, ‘Brodhead.’”

Another time he responded to a complaint of an intoxicated driver in a pickup truck at Burger King on Center Avenue.

A witness told Welte the driver was inside the restaurant. Meanwhile, a second guy was inside the truck, grinding the gears and trying to drive away.

Welte busted them both.

“I had two in the same vehicle,” he said.

Welte has no secret to his high number of drunken-driving arrests. He enjoys traffic stops. And he keeps an eye out for traffic violations.

“It’s being at the right place at the right time for me, and the wrong place at the wrong time for the person I’m stopping,” Welte said.

He also is motivated to keep the streets safe. He has seen too many alcohol-related crashes.

“I don’t want to see anybody get hurt,” Welte said. “I’ve been at the scenes of drunk-driving accidents … I don’t want that to be my family.”

When he makes stops, intoxicated drivers always tell him they’ve had two. One time a guy admitted to having a 12 pack.

“No one ever says one. No one ever says three. Everyone always says a couple,” Welte said.

And people always beg for mercy, but Welte isn’t hearing it.

“I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people that tell me they’re going to lose their job or they’re going to get divorced,” he said. “It sounds coldhearted, but until a society as a whole makes themselves accountable, things are only going to get worse.”

Welte hopes to continue as the department’s leader in drunken-driving arrests.

“Frankly, I don’t know if anyone thinks they can even come close,” Klementz said. “We’re really happy with the work he does.”

Last updated: 9:47 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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