Budget Cuts Hit DUI Squad

Budget Cuts Hit DUI Squad

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Crime Specialist Karen Scullin reportingDrastic changes are on the way for the Utah Department of Public Safety after another cut in the department's budget.

The latest cut: $1.2 million.

That means the team of troopers that watches for drunk drivers will be disbanded.

Budget cuts could mean Utah motorists could be sharing the road with more drunk drivers than in the past. The Utah Highway Patrol's DUI squad that used to focus all efforts on drunk drivers has been dismantled, and the troopers reassigned.

A five-day DUI sweep took 272 drunk drivers off the road. But throughout the year, troopers with the Highway Patrol arrest about 4,500 people for driving under the influence. About half of those arrests have been at the hands of the department's DUI squad.

But budget cuts have forced the squad to be ripped apart and and the troopers reassigned, and that will likely mean more motorists will now get away with driving drunk.

"You're going to see a reduction in DUI enforcement, there's no way around that. You take anybody when their focus is one thing, and you have to make it many things, you're going to see a reduction in that area. That's going to happen," says Utah Public Safety Commissioner Robert Flowers.

Also cut was one of just four troopers assigned to fight Internet crime -- mostly crimes against children.

"And that's a tough one because we should be going the other way. Those group of individuals should have at least 10 to 15 individuals working on that full-time with the explosion of the Internet, and we just don't have it," Flowers says.

Flowers has come under criticism for going after troopers and leaving other personnel intact. Some critics have suggested layoffs of technicians in the state crime lab, something Flowers says doesn't make sense.

"If you don't have your scientists sitting on a bench, then your crime sits upon a shelf. You could have a rape kit, a ballistics test. You could have fingerprints. You know, justice delayed is justice denied in some cases," Flowers says."

Budget cuts are forcing the Utah Highway Patrol to take drastic measures to prevent layoffs.

The good news: for now, there will be no layoffs. The troopers affected will be reassigned to open positions that needed to be filled.

Flowers is hopeful the changes are temporary and that the budget will improve in the next fiscal year which begins in July.

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