On Wisconsin: Janesville police hope online map will shame repeat drunken drivers into sobriety

2013-01-20T10:45:00Z On Wisconsin: Janesville police hope online map will shame repeat drunken drivers into sobrietyBARRY ADAMS | Wisconsin State Journal | badams@madison.com | 608-252-6148 madison.com

JANESVILLE — Jerry Fuchs is sober and looking forward to September.

That’s when the retired General Motors worker will have his name, address and mug shot removed from a website created by the Janesville Police Department that maps city residents who have five or more drunken driving convictions.

Fuchs, 54, has seven convictions, has served a combined three years in jail and prison and wasn’t pleased to join 54 other city residents on the infamous interactive map launched in late 2010.

“People are going to think what they think,” Fuchs said last week. “I don’t think it does anything but smear my name around again.”

Police Chief David Moore has little sympathy for Fuchs and others who are represented by a blue dot on the Project Sober Streets map.

We live in a state where, in 2011, 225 of the 565 deaths on state roadways were alcohol-related, according to the state Department of Transportation. The breakdown for the 600 fatalities in 2012 will, if history is any indicator, likely result in similar numbers.

The Project Sober Streets program, which also lists the status of the offender’s driver’s license, is designed to identify problem offenders, encourage city residents to keep an eye out for those who shouldn’t be driving and create a shaming effect, which could be an effective deterrent for some offenders.

Moore acknowledges the map won’t stop drunken driving in his city but says it is one of the many tools his department uses to combat the deadly problem. City residents with five or more convictions but whose last conviction is more than five years old are removed from the map. Those who are incarcerated are also removed because they are not a threat to the community.

“We realize that a lot of these offenders live in anonymity in our community,” Moore said. “People didn’t know the depth of this problem and the sheer numbers of intoxicated drivers among us.”

Moore was also surprised when he first saw the numbers.

He and the project’s coordinator, Leslie Reid, initially requested data from the DOT for Rock County residents with four or more convictions. They thought they would get a few hundred driver’s license numbers and easily pick out the Janesville residents. The query resulted in 1,054 offenders.

They then narrowed their request to the city of Janesville, but the 391 offenders in the database would have been too overwhelming to manage. When the query went to five or more drunken driving convictions, they found 192. Of those,

74 had their last conviction within five years, but 19 were in jail or prison. That left 55 to research and map. It takes three to four weeks to update the map once a year.

“We didn’t want the project to focus on people that have corrected their actions, so that’s why we put the five-year limit in place,” Reid said. “We have to look up every single (driver’s license), get the

driving history and verify their address. We do the legwork to make sure we

have the most accurate (information)

possible before we put this out on a website.”

The map is believed to be the only one of its kind in the nation. The West Allis Police Department has a map that shows the location of liquor licenses and where drunken driving arrests have been made, but the map doesn’t provide as much detail on offenders. Neither the Janesville nor West Allis maps have the ability to show where the offenders drive on a regular basis.

But any map that shows convictions, whether it’s those offenders with one or 10, is showing only a fraction of the problem. The majority of drunken driving arrests in the state (there were 28,213 convictions in 2011) are first-time offenses, and many of those caught the first time have likely driven dozens of other times while intoxicated, said Nina Emerson, director of the Resource Center on Impaired Driving at UW-Madison.

“A lot of drunk drivers are good (drivers) because they do it all the time. It is so pervasive, but law enforcement is really limited in what they can do,” said Emerson, who is supportive of mapping projects. “Awareness is part of the whole equation. I think it really puts it out there in the public, which is a very good thing.”

Emerson said other steps that should be taken to address drunken driving include raising the state’s beer tax (currently at $2 per barrel), which hasn’t gone up since 1969; requiring more jail time for convicted drunken drivers and finding a way for bartenders to be more proactive in preventing overconsumption.

Fuchs doesn’t believe the map is a deterrent, and he is critical of the state’s drunken driving laws that for those with three or more convictions reduces the legal definition of intoxicated to a 0.02 percent blood alcohol level instead of 0.08 percent.

“I don’t mind paying my debt to society and being responsible for my actions,” Fuchs said. “When you can have one beer and be arrested for drunk driving, it’s ridiculous.”

After the Janesville map, with its unflattering mug shots, was updated in August, the number of dots was reduced to 51. The offenders are scattered throughout the city and include some who continue to make the news.

In December, Peter C. Smith, 29, of Janesville, was arrested on his eighth drunken driving charge after he allegedly ran a red light with his red Chevrolet Beretta. Police say he had a blood alcohol level of 0.15 percent.

“Each community should assess their threats,” Moore said. “For Janesville, (the map is) a worthwhile project.”

Barry Adams covers regional news for the State Journal. Send him ideas for On Wisconsin at 608-252-6148 or by email at badams@madison.com.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. TheBorg
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    TheBorg - January 26, 2013 1:01 pm
    Shame doesn't work. Just look at the Republican Party.
  2. POGO
    Report Abuse
    POGO - January 25, 2013 7:20 am
    Good luck. Felons commit crimes because they are sure they won't get caught. Drunks drive for the same reason. Maybe we should apply one strike and you lose your license. If caught driving without a license go to jail. The only thing to stop drunk drivers is the threat of meaningful punishment. Gun safety can decrease violent gun deaths. Nationally its a race to see if violent gun deaths, or motor vehicle deaths win first prize. I abhor lawyers who advertise, we can handle your DUI. It seems easier to take drunks off the road with strictly enforced laws, since alcohol industry doesn't seem to have a powerful like the NRA.
  3. Scooters Conscience
    Report Abuse
    Scooters Conscience - January 24, 2013 12:12 am
    Most of these offenders have a reason to drink: Governor Walker. I'm sorry everybody, but my ego is doing all these dishonest things, not the real me. The real me is a pastor's son and and Eagle Scout (I think). The real me would never be a puppet to the Koch brothers. Remember my "Beer & Brat" summit. That must have sent a strong message to drunk drivers. Too bad it was a private party. At least my lack of hospitality hasn't stopped drunks from voting for me!
  4. RudyRue
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    RudyRue - January 21, 2013 4:00 am
    An alcoholic's driving might be MORE dangerous while sober because of withdrawal.
  5. classic
    Report Abuse
    classic - January 20, 2013 2:58 pm
    How about spending some money on transportation home for those that have had to much to drink. It will not stop some people no matter how much you try to. But we live in a small community that runs a ride service Thu Fri and Sat. nights they have fundraisers, got a few grants, and give free rides home. They will pick you up and take you to the bar for five dollars and take you from bar to bar for five dollars. Most of us that use this service also tip the drivers good. It has had a big impact on drunk driving.
  6. ovelho
    Report Abuse
    ovelho - January 20, 2013 1:12 pm
    Maybe we could shame diabetics into not needing insulin. Same logic.
  7. perkred
    Report Abuse
    perkred - January 20, 2013 11:26 am
    Shame as a tool to stop addiction??? Are we that stupid? Or are we a bunch of nimrods? Good questions both!! That will never work - just to let you officers know - dry them out, get them in therapy and hope for the best - collar them and retest often - after the second one - you loss your license and are collared for along time
  8. samsad
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    samsad - January 20, 2013 10:17 am
    Perhaps Wisconsin would not have so many REPEAT offenders if they implemented these maps BEGINNING with the First offense. I realize it would be more work and cost money, but SOMEBODY has to be willing to take the first step to avoid more drunk driving crashes/murders. I believe raising the LOW alcohol tax would be a good idea, but the Tavern League's lobbying efforts would likely thwart this idea. Sure wish they would get on board to help SAVE lives, rather than protect their deep pocketbooks. Are most offenders addicts, or are they guilty of bad judgement? not sure about that.
  9. wcg101
    Report Abuse
    wcg101 - January 20, 2013 9:38 am
    Up the river; statistically, law enforcement is catching a very, very low percentage of the people who are driving drunk. If they are caught more than once they are probably driving drunk all the time. Drunk drivers in the daytime scare me the most, that is when my children are the most exposed. Why is it that we laugh at people who have overdosed on alcohol (drunk)?
  10. Nlb979
    Report Abuse
    Nlb979 - January 20, 2013 7:51 am
    Being arrested after one beer may be ridiculous, but guess what Jerry? You don't get an opinion anymore. You thought it was okay to drive drunk AT LEAST five times. You should be in jail. So you know, shut up.
  11. bananahammock
    Report Abuse
    bananahammock - January 20, 2013 7:22 am
    Let's roll this out state wide!
  12. Oscar
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    Oscar - January 20, 2013 2:39 am
    A statistic was released regarding Janesville and 4th or more offense drunken drivers. It was asked how many were there living in the city limits. I guessed 20 or less. There were 200! Until such time as the people of Wisconsin take this seriously, it will continue. I think that the fact that Janesville keeps re-electing republicans shows their moral deficiencies. A blue-collar, union town and they vote in a putz like ryan. I'd be drinking heavily too.
  13. Whazzat
    Report Abuse
    Whazzat - January 19, 2013 9:54 pm
    Wisconsin and its weakest in the nation drunk driving laws are an embarassment to this nation. Rather than post their pictures on a web site they should take them to the landfill for disposal.
  14. Cheezer
    Report Abuse
    Cheezer - January 19, 2013 8:11 pm
    Stupid idea. Drunks drive because they are addicts! Tax alcohol, tax alcohol! A first step toward changing our alcohol culture!
  15. River
    Report Abuse
    River - January 19, 2013 6:14 pm
    What happened to 3 strikes?
  16. axolotlsx5
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    axolotlsx5 - January 19, 2013 5:03 pm
    i think this program is great, too many people die every year cause of drunk drivers and if they think it smears your name jerry fusch too bad its true right? if you dont want your name and photo in paper for drunk driving then stop doing it. i think every city should do this. and why do you give the reasons you were stopped jerry cause it doesnt matter you were driving drunk. wished every town did this maybe it would cut down on deaths even more.

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