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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Internet DUI gallery ends


By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

Without fanfare, the Honolulu Police Department has pulled the plug on its weekly online photo gallery of drunken-driving suspects.

Police officials yesterday announced that the department was reviewing the effectiveness of the pilot program, and that during the evaluation period the agency would not be posting the names and mug shots of drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

HPD spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said the action was not prompted by any complaints by embarrassed motorists threatening to sue police over the posting of their mug shots, a concern that was mentioned when the program began in November.

Each week's crop of photos was posted at 10 a.m. Wednesday on the HPD Web site. Police officials said they hoped the negative publicity would deter others from drinking and driving.

When the program first started, there were an average of 70 to 80 DUI arrests each week. Those numbers seem to have remained fairly constant, except for one week last month when more than 100 photos were posted.

A total of 1,123 photos were exhibited, Sluyter said.

During its short run, the gallery developed a sort of cult following.

"Each week, we got between 5,000 to 9,000 hits," Sluyter said.

Someone not HPD turned the postings into a popular Facebook page called "DUI Wednesdays" that logged nearly 10,600 fans, many of whom expressed disappointment yesterday that Honolulu police were suspending the program.

Former Honolulu resident Trisha Tamashiro, 23, of Glendale, Calif., told The Advertiser she looked forward to the weekly updates and always checked to see if any friends or relatives were featured.

"I think 'DUI Wednesdays' is one of the smartest, most creative things HPD has done. It embarrasses motorists not to drink and drive, and it lets normal law-abiding citizens get a laugh out of those who were dumb enough to be caught. In short, it's just so entertaining. I love it. And I will miss it," Tamashiro said in an e-mail.

When the idea was unveiled last fall, it drew a mixed response from Hawaii Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Some welcomed the online postings as yet another tool in the battle against DUI, but others questioned whether there was any real proof that posting photos of DUI suspects would serve as a deterrent.

A 25-year-old Nu'uanu man told The Advertiser he thinks the postings are a bad idea. He said an attractive female friend featured on the police Web site continues to be "harassed" with dozens of Facebook "friend" requests daily from "random guys," and her photo even turned up on a pornography forum site.

"That is very degrading and is uncalled for," said the man, who did not want to be identified to protect his privacy.

"HPD did their job by trying to embarrass people by posting their photos. Good job, but that is a waste of time, money and resources. Yes, people shouldn't drink and drive, but that is past ethical to do that to people."