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UA officer targets campus drunk drivers

By Audrey DeAnda
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 4, 1999
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Jeffrey Williams
Arizona Daily Wildcat

UAPD DUI officer Luis Olivarria watches carefully for impaired drivers on and near campus. On any given weekend, 8 out of 10 drivers on the road are impaired, Olivarria said.

Officer Luis Olivarria holds the distinction of being the only campus officer in Arizona who focuses solely on busting drunk drivers.

"Hopefully, I'll be a deterrence for people not to drive under the influence," he said. "DUI arrests are low in the time I've taken over, but the students were on summer vacation when I first took the position."

According to University of Arizona Police Department statistics for 1998, officers made 66 DUI arrests and recorded 231 violations for underage drinking or minors in possession.

The bad news for those who will still drive under the influence - UA police have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drunk driving.

"If a person is caught, they will be arrested and charged with a criminal DUI," Olivarria said. "First-time offenders will have their license suspended up to 90 days, a $250 fine and community service."

Olivarria spent five years on UA's police force before becoming the officer who specializes in pinpointing people driving under the influence six months ago.

University police created a special DUI enforcement position because it wanted to give officers a chance to specialize in an area of expertise, he said.

Other officers are members of multi-agency task forces for narcotics and gang units.

"They are sent to these taskforces, then they rejoin our force, teaching other officers what they've learned," Olivarria said.

Every officer in the police force is trained in DUI procedures, but Olivarria specializes in DUI investigations. His duties include spotting impaired motorists, administering impairment tests and training other officers.

Olivarria drives a special car equipped with a remote-controlled eyewitness camera to capture interactions with suspected drunk drivers.

"The camera really cuts down on trial time and can be used with testimony," he said.

Olivarria's car is also the only UAPD vehicle to feature a radar that can clock the speed of vehicles coming toward and away from him, whether he is stationary or mobile.

Holly Robles, a victim advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, praised the extra steps to prevent drunk driving.

"I think it's wonderful that UA has this special DUI officer," she said. "The university is supposed to be a non-alcoholic campus, yet alcohol is everywhere."

Robles began volunteering at M.A.D.D. after her son was killed by a drunk driver in 1992. She became the victim advocate in 1994, when she began working full time.

"All the factors of fraternity parties, living in the dorms and just being away from home makes everyone think it's party time," Robles said.

Though Olivarria will only target motorists in the UA area, he is also a member of Southern Arizona's DUI Task Force. For occasions like New Year's eve and Memorial Day weekend, he takes part in city-wide deployment of officers enforcing DUIs.