Local hero? Man tweets DUI checkpoint locations

Mr. Checkpoint is a man who alerts thousands of people where police are setting up DUI checkpoints in San Diego and the L.A. county areas. Not everyone approves of his motivations.

Mr. Checkpoint himself. CBS8 Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When there's a long weekend, the police sometimes create longer lines of traffic by setting up random checkpoints to test whether you have enjoyed yourself to the point of irresponsibility.

It's a tradition not unlike grilling and insulting a relative.

Increasingly, however, social media has allowed real human beings to contact other real human beings in order to avoid being randomly stopped and having their breath searched.

Sennett Devermont has turned checkpoint alerts into what he believes is a public service.

Devermont, a co-founder of the dating site site DateUp (later sold to IAC) and various other ventures, has created the superhero name Mr. Checkpoint, and his site works hard to ensure that his followers receive text alerts as soon as the information comes to him.

His Twitter feed now has more than 43,000 followers, who hang on his every revelation.

However, as CBS8 in San Diego reports, not everyone believes that his motivation is entirely Clark Kentian.

San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Pat Rillera, executive director of Mother Against Drunk Driving in L.A. and Ventura counties, told CBS8: "While we support the publication of checkpoints as a deterrent to drunk driving, sites like MrCheckpoint alert drunk drivers so they can evade arrest. It's not meant as a positive."

How would she know? Does she have evidence that Devermont is merely one more 25-year-old encouraging one more unsafe act?

Mr. Checkpoint himself says that he has support among MADD members and insists: "When I realized the positive impact it had -- people were taking designated drivers, taxis, sleeping in hotels, I decided to make the service free."

Some might find it peculiar, though, that he has the need of a lawyer's services. Mary Frances Prevost also appeared on camera and offered that "when there's more talk about DUI checkpoints and more advertising about them, there is a 20 percent reduction in DUIs and DUI fatalities."

I am not sure where this statistic might have been born. Importantly, though, Mr. Checkpoint isn't stealing information. He isn't some sort of Wikileaker of police procedure. The information is public, released by local police departments.

Indeed, he believes his method is a genuine deterrent, because, he says, he is targeting the right people through social media.

On his LinkedIn page he offers: "An organization as well known as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) who helps countless victims of drunk driving doesn't necessarily identify with the right demographic when trying to make a difference on the road. MrCheckpoint prides itself in identifying and targeting the right demographic being twenty-one to thirty-five year olds, which make up majority of arrests and accidents relating to DUI."

You might be wondering whether Mr. Checkpoint is doing this entirely out of the kindness of his soul. Well, his service is ad-supported, so one might imagine that there are tidy sums being made here. He says on LinkedIn that he has sent more than 1 million text messages since August 2012.

He is also highly skeptical of police methods.

He added on LinkedIn: "The reality is that DUI checkpoints only identify .45% of DUI drivers who go through DUI checkpoints. When officers want to arrest drunk drivers they perform DUI saturation patrols which yield a 14% arrest rate."

You might, though, feel a touch of cynicism wash over you when you hear that, on signing up for his text alerts, you have to tick a box promising not to drink and drive. How many times have you agreed to something electronically just to get what you wanted?

Police all over America have become increasingly disturbed with how people are receiving electronic warnings of their checkpoint activities.

Some have decided to create checkpoints on unexpected days and in unexpected places.

In Devermont's case, though, his motivation to disseminate information is more personal. As L.A. Weekly reports, he says he was once stopped by police, made to take a field sobriety test and was told he had failed.

When breathalyzed, however, the machine said that there was no alcohol in his system at all.

He then decided to examine the law. A field sobriety test cannot be imposed on you. If you say "no" to the test, this does not legally constitute an admission of guilt. You don't, according to him, have to talk to talk to the police.

And this is where Prevost comes in. She is defending him after a 2011 stop, in which she says police went against the law.

She told L.A. Weekly: "We're throwing the kitchen sink at them for violating his civil rights. We're suing for false arrest, emotional distress, battery (tight handcuffs), searching his personal belongings."

Five months after this incident, he was again stopped -- this time for allegedly turning right without stopping. He says he was arrested for refusing a sobriety test. His car was allegedly impounded and he was tossed in jail.

In all these tales, some might see a deeper motivation than merely providing a public service.

Still, not every member of the police force is against his methods. L.A. Weekly quoted Lt. Shan Dale of Beverly Hills Traffic Bureau: "If we can get people thinking about these checkpoints so they're not driving drunk, then it's good. Take a cab, or give your keys to a friend."

Naturally, those who plan to get drunk and not stopped by the police will also be helped by Mr. Checkpoint. They will decide whether it's worth the risk to drive or not.

But at least they might think about the potential consequences when they're still sober.

 

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