Families of those killed or critically injured by impaired drivers in Ohio will soon have an additional avenue to justice as the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (ODPS) Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) has announced plans to conduct "trace-back" investigations on all fatal and serious injury crashes in which alcohol and drugs are suspected.
Continuing to serve an obviously impaired patron, providing alcohol to minors, or hosting underage alcohol parties are criminal violations that may ultimately lead to fatal crashes. In Ohio, nearly 400 people are killed each year in alcohol-involved crashes.
Through an integrated re-structuring within ODPS that will reduce facility costs, streamline administrative functions and lead to better collaboration through improved information sharing and oversight, Ohio troopers will continue to focus on the suspected impaired driver, but Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) agents (formerly referred to as liquor agents) will now investigate if there are other criminal violations which may have led to the driver's impairment. "Trace-back" investigations will be made available without cost to any Ohio law enforcement agency as well. Officials said this may be the first and most comprehensive effort of its type in the United States.
"While an internal examination of ways to reduce internal costs and streamline operations was the catalyst, the main purpose is to hold those responsible for tragedy accountable and deter future violations," ODPS Director Thomas P. Charles said. "We owe it to the families who have lost a loved one, whose lives never are the same because of a senseless act, to find out all the facts that led to the tragedy."
Charles said the new structure will allow OIU agents to focus efforts on three keys areas: trace-back investigations on all fatal and serious injury crashes in which alcohol and drugs are suspected; special investigations such as human trafficking in liquor establishments; and investigations of serious violations of Ohio's liquor laws.
"Nearly every liquor permit holder and employee in Ohio shares our goal of a safer Ohio," Charles said. "We will shift our resources and efforts on those who commit the most egregious violations."
Federally funded food stamp fraud investigations and personnel will be a separate function within the Department.
Information gleaned from OIU investigations will be shared with the entire law enforcement community.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol's "Hub" with its 24/7 Intel and information resource capabilities will be an integral part of this new collaborative effort and provide a resource not before possible.