In Miami Beach, where revelers flock from around the globe to guzzle Grey Goose and sip cosmopolitans often to excess police officers nabbed 1,299 suspected intoxicated drivers in 2009.
By last year, that number had plunged to 492.
And if this years pace continues, Miami Beach cops will cuff still fewer: They made just 221 driving-under-the-influence arrests in the first half of this year, newly released Miami-Dade court statistics show.
It is a startling trend in a city fueled by booze and a thriving night-life industry, one that has supplied Web surfers with an endless parade of bleary-eyed entertainers and pro athletes nailed for driving through South Beach while drunk or high.
Obviously, its very frustrating for MADD. Its so sad, said Janet Mondshein, executive director of Miamis chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the organization that did more than anyone to make drunken driving unacceptable. If this continues, more people will die. They might not necessarily die in Miami Beach, but thats where the drinking starts, and then they travel elsewhere.
Has the message finally sunk in that drinking and driving is a deadly combination? Hardly. The number of traffic wrecks in Miami-Dade linked to drinking has remained level.
So why the big reduction in arrests?
The citys police union blames a lack of officer training and resources, while the department acknowledges that under a reorganization of patrol zones started in late 2011, officers sometimes must forgo DUI stops to target other crime trends plaguing the city.
Its not that were not focusing on DUIs, but this is a busy, happening community, and we have a lot of issues, said Chief Ray Martinez. DUI enforcement and traffic enforcement is one of many.
Nonetheless, the decline in DUI enforcement is troubling to critics who dont believe fewer people are driving while drunk or high on drugs.
And gruesome, high-profile cases are still making headlines this past week, a Key Biscayne pop musician was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the DUI hit-and-run that killed a cyclist on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Earlier this year, a drunken bartender and self-described party princess Karlie Tomica plowed into a chef walking across Collins Avenue in a case that drew national headlines.
Miami Beach Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, while praising the departments improved patrol visibility, said the drop in DUI arrests is concerning.
I have a hard time believing less people are drinking and driving, Wolfson said.
The diminished DUI enforcement comes as Miami Beach draws more crowds than ever.
In the past fiscal year, resort-tax revenue was measured at $51 million, a nearly 37 percent increase from four years ago. And clubs and bars, which pay tens of thousands each year to employ off-duty Miami Beach officers to provide security, are an integral part of the citys nightlife.
The plummeting Beach numbers are, in fact, part of an overall decline in DUI arrests county- and statewide. Back in 2009, police agencies around Miami-Dade busted 6,321 suspected intoxicated drivers but this year are on pace to make 23 percent fewer busts.
In Miami, officers in 2012 hauled off to jail over 1,000 suspected drunken drivers. In the first half of this year just 327. Up north in Miami Gardens, where officers nabbed 94 inebriated drivers in 2010, cops in the first half of this year cuffed just 16.