RACINE COUNTY — The Racine County Sheriff says they've seen an uptick in OWI arrests the last two weekends, but it speaks to a bigger issue facing the department.
"On average, it takes two to four hours," Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said. "There is a bigger picture we need to look at. The booking process, staff in jail, medical attention at jail, all of these things encompass nothing more than a huge drain on the tax payer who pay for public safety."
Sunday afternoon between 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., the Racine County Sheriff arrested five people for OWI, including one man for his sixth offense. This follows last weekend, where police arrested four people for OWI over three hours.
The arrests aren't a part of some new push by law enforcement. It's just deputies finding them on patrols.
"That is deputies on patrol, doing their job," Schmaling said. "That's what they've stumbled across. I'm proud of my staff for being on routine patrol and within five hours, finding five OWIs. That's aggressive patrolling in my opinion. But I wish we didn't have that issue. I wish we were patrolling school parking lots, church parking lots, neighborhoods and businesses. That's where we belong. Until that changes, that's what we're going to deal with. We're committed to keeping the streets safe."
Sheriff Schmaling says the time it takes to process an OWI offender can take much longer if anything else comes up.
"You mix in an accident, mix in drugs in the car, mix in evidence or an uncooperative person, that could require your whole shift," Schmaling said. "It makes me feel frustrated. It should make everyone here frustrated as well. We're not in your neighborhood. We're not doing our job in terms of protecting the rest of the community and why? Because our attention is focused on this."
It's not lost on Sheriff Schmaling that this is a necessary part of their job as law enforcement officials. However, he says the poor decisions made by certain people result in a larger impact to the county as a whole.
"If we don't find these people, they're either going to find themselves in a ditch, rolled over, killed or they're going to kill an innocent family," Schmaling said. "But you're pulling a deputy that could be in your neighborhood, watching your property or at a local business making sure you're safe, patrolling your children's schools. All of these things we ought to be doing, we're now not doing because we have to mess around with and deal with people who have made bad choices.