Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland announced a program Wednesday he said will get drunk drivers off the roads by rewarding tipsters.
The DrunkBuster Award Program, which is operated by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, gives $100 rewards to citizens who report potentially impaired motorists to police, leading to a DUI arrest.
The program is now in effect.
“The more drunk drivers are reported and arrested, the more lives will be saved,” Helland said at a press conference held in the Morris Municipal Services Facility.
“I firmly believe the DrunkBuster program will help save lives in Grundy County.”
Begun in 1990, the program is funded by the court fines paid by DUI offenders.
A citizen who notices possible drunk driving can report it to police, providing information such as a description of the car, the location and, if possible, the license plate number.
If it leads to an arrest, the reporting person can call back to claim the reward.
DrunkBuster runs statewide during holidays, and runs year-round in Kane, DuPage, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.
Rita Kreslin, executive director of AAIM, said the program has paid more than $480,700 to tipsters so far.
“It’s a wonderful program and it’s proved for many years to be successful,” Kreslin said.
Founded in 1982, AAIM is an Illinois-based citizen’s action group that advocates on behalf of victims of drunk driving and works to reduce drunk driving.
Kreslin got involved after her son, John, died in a drunk driving crash.
“It just turned my life into a tailspin,” Kreslin said.
The program, she said, will make roads safer and could act as a deterrent to potential drunk drivers. Local law enforcement officials said they were hopeful about the program.
Morris Police Chief Brent Dite said implementing a reward system could bring in more tips.
“I think it’ll be beneficial,” Dite said.
Dustin Geier, master sergeant with the Illinois State Police Dist. 5, said they already receive tips, and he hopes this program will generate more proactive responses from citizens.
“I believe anything that takes a drunk driver off the road is a beneficial program,” Geier said. “The more people we get coming forward, the better.”
Explaining that the department does not get many Crime Stoppers tips, Grundy County Sheriff Kevin Callahan said public awareness is vital to the program’s success.
“It’s a good concept,” he said. “I hope it’s successful.”
And while he said it remains to be seen whether the program will be, Callahan said anything that can be done to combat drunk driving is worth it.
“If it saves one person’s life, it’s a success,” Callahan said.