KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Enforcement of the prohibition against drunken driving is being ratcheted up indefinitely, Kadena’s commander said Thursday.

As of April 15, Kadena police had arrested 31 drivers accused of being under the influence of alcohol — a rate that could result in more than 100 such arrests this year, according to figures released by the base’s alcohol task force.

The figures represent a marked increase over the base’s five-year average of 80 DUI arrests per year. In 2004, police arrested 92 drivers accused of being under the influence of alcohol.

“Are more people drinking or are more people getting caught?” asked Brig. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas, 18th Wing commander, who said “increased vigilance” is playing a role in the higher number of arrests.

Security forces have increased DUI checkpoints across base and at the gates, he said.

The enforcement measures are targeted primarily — but not exclusively — at airmen between 18 and 25, Jouas said. Almost two-thirds of all alcohol-related offenses were committed by airmen with ranks of E1 to E4. Among age groups, 20-year-olds were most likely to be arrested for an alcohol-related incident last year.

Jouas said there are no plans to emulate the system imposed on lower-ranking enlisted Marines on Okinawa; they’re barred from driving and must obey nightly curfews.

The wing commander said, “We tend to take a more specific approach to liberty. In cases where an individual demonstrates that they can’t act responsibly, then we put constraints on their liberty.”

Kadena also is stepping up its outreach efforts. Thursday, for instance, all with ranks of staff sergeant or below attended briefings at Keystone Theater on alcohol-related incidents.

They reviewed the task force’s findings and watched a video of a 21-year-old airman confined to the Camp Hansen brig after a second DUI offense.

The alcohol task force is exploring other options to combat alcohol-related incidents, said task force chief Maj. Kevin Melton.

Since October 2004, the group has gathered data and interviewed airmen about their attitudes regarding alcohol abuse.

One idea includes providing something similar to the Green Line shuttle service operated by Okinawa’s Marine bases, Melton said.

Kadena also provides free rides to airmen through Airmen Against Drunk Driving, available at DSN 634-AADD.

But the key to decreasing alcohol abuse lies in changing the cultural perception of binge drinking and drunk driving, Melton said.

“Years ago it was perfectly acceptable to smoke and now it’s not,” he said. “That’s what we want to do [in regards to] drinking to excess.”

Inside the numbers

Out of 2,504 total incidents reported by Kadena police in 2004, 274 were DUIs, sexual assaults or other crimes in which alcohol was a factor.Some two-thirds of those offenses occurred on Saturdays or Sundays; the fewest occurred on Wednesdays.One drunken driver registered a .322% blood alcohol level in 2004, well past both the .03% legal limit off-base and the .05% limit on base.Peak DUI hours occur from 2 to 8 a.m., after airmen return from a night of drinking.Twenty-seven airmen received court-martial convictions in 2004 and spent an average of 41 days in the Camp Hansen brig, with one airman receiving an 11-month sentence.Alcohol-related punishments are evaluated on an individual basis, said 18th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas. Less severe cases may result in a reprimand and fine; others may include confinement and a general or dishonorable discharge.— Stars and Stripes

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now