Green Bay Police balance OWI arrests with public help

Local News

A grant-funded task force of multiple departments in the region is working together to keep the streets safe.

“We may be in Ledgeview one night, we may be in De Pere one night, we may be in Ashwaubenon one night,” said Chief Andrew Smith of the Green Bay Police Department. “So, we rotate around where we have a lot of officers out there looking for those OWI arrests.”

While Green Bay’s numbers are down, a new study from says Wisconsin still has some of the highest numbers of OWIs in the country.

“Well, it doesn’t really surprise me with the culture of drinking that we have here in the state of Wisconsin,” he said. “What I am seeing, though, is more and more people using ride-shares and people working with the Tavern League to take some sort of taxi home.”

There have been no OWI fatalities to-date in 2019.
The push to get home safely is a responsibility that’s helping cops out.

“We got to be sure that we’re doing everything we can to keep drunk drivers from ruining people’s lives and ruining people’s families,” said Chief Smith.

So far this year, there have been 459 OWI arrests–down from the 589 last year.
And it’s not that fewer people are drinking–there are fewer arrests because there are fewer officers.

“Our budget has been a difficult and challenging time for the whole city,” he said. “And our part of that budget is that we have to run with fewer officers than we were previously authorized.”

Currently, Green Bay is down 17 officers.

“Our officers are spending a lot of time answering radio calls,” he said. “They don’t have as much discretionary time to do traffic enforcement, to do community policing, or to do OWI enforcement that I’d like them to do.”

And that’s why planning your ride home ahead of time, along with reporting what you see, can end up saving the night.

“Our officers are out there, or someone’s going to call 9-1-1, or one of our officers will spot you,” said Chief Smith. “And it’s a long, difficult recovery from an OWI.”

The Brown County Board of Supervisors is holding its annual budget hearing on November 6th.

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