LAND O'LAKES — For the second year in a row, the winner of the Hurd-Smith award for making the most DUI arrests in the state is a Pasco County trooper.
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Ronald Evans Jr. made 238 DUI arrests last year during his midnight shifts patrolling the Land O'Lakes area. He also won the award in 2009 for making 187 DUI arrests the previous year and in 2004, for a whopping 300 DUI arrests in 2003. The award honors two troopers killed in the line of duty by drunken drivers. Trooper Kimberly Hurd, 26, was killed in 1992 while conducting a traffic stop in Fort Lauderdale when a van hit her. Trooper Robbie Smith, 34, died in 1997 when a speeding vehicle hit his patrol car in Miami.
Evans was a finalist for the award in 2010, but was edged out by Trooper Michael A. Hollis Jr., also stationed in Land O'Lakes, who had 203 DUI arrests.
Sgt. Steve Gaskins, spokesman for the FHP, said the reason for the high numbers isn't because Pasco has an extreme amount of drunken drivers compared with other Florida counties. It's just that these two troopers are good.
"Those guys have quite the initiative to do DUI enforcement," Gaskins said. "As a result, the numbers are high."
Statistics for people convicted of DUI in Pasco have remained relatively the same in recent years — 1,057 in 2007; 1,033 in 2008 and 1,042 in 2009. Numbers for 2010 were not available.
Hillsborough County has the highest number of DUI convictions in the state, with 4,038 in 2009, according to FHP statistics. Its numbers have declined slightly in recent years. Pinellas had a sharp decrease of 17 percent in 2009, with 2,223 convictions. Hernando has been steadily decreasing, going from 567 in 2007 to 486 in 2009.
The Highway Patrol recognized 10 troopers who made more than 100 DUI arrests in 2010. Two Tampa Bay troopers made the list: Trooper Bobby Hartzig, who covers Pinellas Park, and Trooper David Meyer, of Brooksville.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving named Evans as the MADD Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Evans and the 10 finalists were honored at a recent ceremony in Orlando. The anti-drunken driving organization ranks Florida as the 18th worst state in the nation for DUI.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.