Tree campaign fails to slow city’s impaired driving trend

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska Police in Anchorage, Alaska, issued a December challenge to community members to not drive while intoxicated.

To highlight the campaign, they erected a Christmas tree and said they would tie on a blue ribbon for every arrest for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.

The challenge was not heeded, Anchorage television station KTVA reported. The tree was quickly adorned, and police ran out of blue ribbon.

Through Dec. 14, Anchorage police placed 59 ribbons on the tree. Numbers continued to trend the wrong way after that. The department made 36 arrests for operating under the influence from Dec. 15 to Dec. 21.

“That’s 36 more ribbons on the tree,” the department said in a statement. “We ran out of blue ribbon (so did Costco) so we switched to plaid and had to start tying bows on the side because the front is full. This is no good. Don’t drive drunk or high. It just isn’t worth it.”

Final arrest numbers for December will be available next week, said Kendra Doshier, a department spokeswoman.

The department made 130 OUI arrests in December 2016. That climbed to 139 in 2017 and 150 in December 2018. The upward trend is frustrating for police.

“There’s just so many other things you can do other than get behind the wheel of that car and potentially end your life or the life of someone else,” said Renee Oistad, police department spokeswoman.

Local bar owners agreed.

“We don’t want over-consumption,” said Matt Tomter, owner of Matanuska Brewing Co. At the company’s three locations, he said, employees are instructed to look out for the safety of customers.

“We want everyone to have a good time, get everybody home safe, encourage people to take an Uber or Lyft if they’ve been drinking at all,” he said. All designated drivers receive free non-alcoholic drinks, he said.