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York police debate merits of naming alleged drunk drivers

Last Updated Jan 10, 2017 at 7:46 pm EDT

Police in York Region are weighing the merits of publishing the names of people charged with impaired driving in an effort to curb the crime.

They said last year was one of the worst for deaths caused by drunk driving. More than 1,200 people were arrested for alleged impaired driving — 85 per cent were men, almost half of them between the ages of 22 and 34.

And despite notorious cases like Marco Muzzo, the drunk driver who caused the death of three children and their grandfather in Vaughan, those numbers continue to climb.

“We were pretty sure after the end of 2015, after the horrible crash involving the Neville-Lake children and the grandfather, that we would see the numbers go down — just how publicized it was, just how horrible that tragedy was,” said Const. Andy Pattenden of York Regional Police.

“And we saw the opposite. They went up.”

Police said they arrested nine more alleged drunk drivers on York Region roads last weekend. One of them was passed out at the wheel in the middle of Clark Avenue and Dufferin Street in Vaughan.

“We were called by a citizen because the car was stopped in the middle of an intersection, driver slumped over the wheel — We’re thinking medical,” Pattenden said.

“We get there, wake the driver up with air horns and sirens. Turns out he’s just drunk. People need to know this is going on.”

For the past decade, the Durham Regional Police Service has been posting the names of people accused of drunk driving, but it has no numbers that show whether the strategy has worked as a deterrent.

“We’ll put (up) stories about assault, we’ll put (up) stories about people getting beaten up in bars and people drunk on the street — even robberies,” said spokesman Dave Selby.

“We think these (impaired driving cases) are as serious a criminal offence as those. So there’s no difference for us. We want to put that information out. The public has a right to know.”

Selby said concrete results have come out of making the list public.

Last year, a neighbour called police after noticing someone on Durham’s drinking-and-driving list getting behind the wheel of a car. Officers responded and arrested the man, as he was driving with a suspended licence.

Toronto police only publish names of those charged with impaired driving if there’s a reason beyond shaming — looking for the witnesses of an accident, for example.

According to MADD Canada, crashes involving alcohol or drugs cause about four deaths in Canada every day and are the leading criminal cause of death in the country.

Related stories:

2016 one of worst years for impaired driving deaths in York Region: police

York police ‘disappointed’ after 13 charged with impaired driving over weekend

Muzzo sentenced to 10 years in Vaughan drunk-driving crash