Gang violence, armed robberies and gunfire are relatively rare in Janesville.
But on average, Janesville police arrest more than one intoxicated driver every day.
By their sheer numbers, drunken drivers are more likely to kill or cause great bodily harm than those high-profile crimes, said Police Chief Dave Moore.
The city experienced a spate of intoxicated driving incidents this month, prompting Moore to issue a warning: Don’t trust other drivers. Be ready to take evasive action. Talk to the young drivers in your family. Report erratic driving.
“I don’t even go through a green light anymore without looking left and right,” Moore said.
Moore noticed a lot of intoxicated driving arrests recently, so he took a closer look at the first 22 days of August, when police made 27 intoxicated-driving arrests.
That might seem like a lot, but Janesville averages more than one such arrest every day.
Some of the cases Moore reviewed were particularly scary.
In one case called in by another driver, police saw a woman driving down Highway 14 without a tire on one wheel.
In the wrong lane.
She went through a red light at Pontiac Drive.
Police found 41 bottles of gin and vodka in the car. She registered a 0.247 on the preliminary breath test, more than three times the legal limit.
The breath test was used in 13 of the 27 cases. Seven of those drivers blew a blood-alcohol concentration that was twice the legal limit or higher, Moore said.
The Gazette agreed not to identify the drivers in this article so Moore could talk about the details without jeopardizing the pending court cases.
People think of drunken drivers as being caught late at night or very early morning, but eight of those 27 arrests took place before 8 p.m., five more before 10 p.m.
Moore said it’s not unusual for officers to stop an intoxicated driver in the afternoon.
“This is the time when our families and our kids are out going to and from school events,” Moore said.
In another case called in by a motorist, an officer found a driver weaving in his lane and hitting the curb. As the officer turned around to stop the car, it hit a mailbox and ended up in a front yard.
An opiate drug was suspected to be the intoxicant in that case, Moore said.
Of the 27 cases, most were alcohol-related. One was suspected of being marijuana and another a combination of alcohol and marijuana.
Repeat intoxicated drivers accounted for 15 of the arrests, from second to seventh offense.
Other cases involved drivers who didn’t seem to understand where they were or what they had done.
One woman became so upset at being arrested that she kicked and head-butted the inside of the squad car. Officers had to put her in leg restraints and a soft helmet.
Then there was the case of the driver who dozed off at a gas station pump, moved forward and bumped the car in front of him.
When an officer approached him, the man was belligerent. He refused to turn off the engine or get out of the car. Children walked behind the car as he argued with the officer. Moore said if the man had put the car into reverse, someone would have been hurt.
The man tried to put the car into gear, and the officer eventually shot him with a Taser, twice.
Moore said his officers don’t catch every intoxicated driver, but he believes if you drive drunk in Janesville, there’s a good chance you’ll be caught and prosecuted.
Those chances increased Aug. 16 and through Labor Day, when Janesville and many other law enforcement agencies get grant money to mount extra patrols, looking for intoxicated driving.
No one was injured in any of the 27 cases Moore reviewed.
“If you look at these collectively, we were just plain fortunate because these are very intoxicated people that really are in no condition to be driving,” Moore said.