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KOIN 6 News

‘Always a concern’: Police anticipate more DUII charges over Memorial Day weekend

By Brandon ThompsonAimee Plante,


PORTLAND, Ore. ( KOIN ) – Although Portland’s recent DUII charges have declined without the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division, authorities say DUII arrests tend to increase over Memorial Day weekend.

More officers will be on the roads and highways this weekend, and Portland police tell KOIN 6 News they can tell more dangerous driving has developed in the years without the Traffic Division.

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In 2019, there were more than 1,600 misdemeanor DUII charges in Multnomah County, according to traffic data. Last year, data show there were only 539. Similarly, felony DUIIs dropped by 60% – from 62 to 24.

In that time, police say assault and manslaughter charges from DUII crashes have more than doubled across the state.

Law enforcement agencies say they know there are just as many people — if not more — driving under the influence, because the number of crashes and injuries related to DUII have increased in the same period.

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Police say the numbers appear to decrease because traffic officers are the ones certified in sobriety testing. Now that those officers have other duties, PPB says that leaves most officers unable to charge a DUII —  or that charges are less likely to stick.

“I think the fact that there wasn’t a Traffic Division enabled a lot of people to do things they may not have normally done just because they figured there wasn’t a lot of police out there to catch them,” said Sgt. Ty Engstrom.

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Captain Kyle Kennedy said Oregon State Police has dedicated more traffic patrols over the holiday weekend.

“It’s always a concern on these weekends, and we know people are going to be out and we know our arrest numbers for DUII are going to go up this weekend,” he said.

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This weekend comes just a week after seven people were killed in a crash involving a semi-truck — the driver of which was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence.

Kennedy did not comment on that specific crash, but he did offer a piece of advice: “If you’re driving behind somebody and you are uncomfortable driving around that vehicle… That’s a driver that you should probably be reporting.”

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