The Huntington Beach Police Department is considering posting the names of drunk-driving offenders on its website as part of a stepped-up strategy to address DUIs downtown and citywide.
Police submitted a report this month to the City Council identifying drinking and driving as a "significant problem" in Surf City and detailed proposed strategies for preventing and reducing the crime.
Tactics already include notifying establishments where those arrested for DUI had their last drink, DUI checkpoints and participating in Every 15 Minutes programs in schools. And police are asking the city to fund a third motorcycle officer for its DUI enforcement team.
Posting offenders' names online would take enforcement into the digital age. Department officials did not know how many other Orange County cities, if any, posted suspected offenders' names online.
"DUIs are a public-safety issue," said police Lt. Russell Reinhart. "Public awareness of the problem, and scope of the problem, is one way of addressing any public-safety concern."
The Police Department considered publishing the names of those arrested for DUI after the Huntington Beach Independent stopped publishing a weekly DUI list in December, according to the city report. The Independent decided to ax the standing feature after a change in editorial policy.
The department is considering posting the names, which are public record, online, not to embarrass people, but to send a message that Huntington is enforcing DUIs, he said.
"It's not a wall of shame we're looking to put up," Reinhart said.
For the last three years, on average, the department has made 1,700 DUI arrests a year.
Huntington's DUI rate was the third-highest for cities with similar populations in 2008, according to the report.
"We have a murder once every couple of years in Huntington Beach, but we have a dozen or so people killed in alcohol-related crashes every year," Reinhart said.
However, Huntington still has the fourth-highest number of alcohol-related traffic collisions for its population, which is estimated at more than 201,000, according to the report.
Reinhart said officers are trying to focus on being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to drinking and driving.
"We're trying to actually stop the problem before it happens," he said. "We see it as a problem, the council sees it as a problem, the residents see it as a problem. We're doing what we can to stop the problem rather than just react to the problem."
The Police Department in March began tracking where those arrested on suspicion of drunken driving had their last drink. Police compiled the data and then began notifying the managers of those businesses on a monthly basis to inform them that they may have been over-serving customers.
The hope, Reinhart said, is that the establishments take action by serving fewer drinks and directing intoxicated patrons to taxis.
"There's an expectation that they don't serve people to the point of intoxication," he said.
In a period from March 1 to June 30, the highest number of DUI arrestees claimed to have had their last drink at two Main Street restaurants. Fourteen arrestees claimed to have their last drinks at Baja Sharkeez, while eight said they were at Hurricanes Bar & Grill.
Ron Newman, a partner in Sharkeez, said his restaurant doesn't serve those who are obviously intoxicated, will pay cab fare for those who cannot drive and serves free soft drinks to designated drivers.
But at the end of the night, Sharkeez can't control what people do when they leave, he added.