Record number of DWI seizures fill lot for auction

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The public will have an opportunity to get a good deal on a nice car, thanks to drunk drivers in New Mexico. Police in one city have seized so many drunk drivers’ cars, they’re running out of room in their lot. Now they’re about to auction off a lot of them.

The vehicles being auctioned come from repeat DWI offenders, or were abandoned by suspected drunk drivers. It’s all part of a program to crack down on drunk driving, that police say is working.

It looks like a used car lot, and technically it is. “We’ve got the Jaguar, we’ve got a Jeep with a wench on it, we’ve got some convertibles, there’s several nice pickups,” said C.L. Bentley, Auctioneer.

But the vehicles in the lot Bentley is referring to are mostly all vehicles seized from drunk drivers by the Santa Fe Police Department.

“We are making sure that even if its the very first offense, we crack down hard on drunk drivers,” explained Celina Westervelt, spokesman for the Santa Fe Police Department.

Santa Fe has had record high DWI seizures with more than 600 vehicles in the last year. DWI arrests are also up, with 420 last year. But DWI crashes are down, with only 50. Santa Fe Police say that’s a good thing. “Our officers are being proactive, the department is being proactive, and the city is really working together to ensure this program works,” said Westervelt.

Out of the lot, more than 100 vehicles which likely belonged to repeat offenders or were abandoned by their owners, are up for sale.

Auctioneer C.J. Bentley is getting ready for Saturday’s auction. He said about 700 people attended last year. But this year, he said the public will find some gems. “Overall to me, the vehicles are better this year than they were last,” said Bentley.

There are retired police BMW motorcycles, several with low mileage. There’s also a MINI Cooper, an Expedition, a Yukon, and several pickups in good condition.

At this point the DWI seizure lot is nearly overflowing and everything must go. The lowest bid starts at $300, but the city says the program has been priceless. “Its wonderful to see people getting the message that DWI will not be tolerated in the city of Santa Fe and that we’re going to stop this problem,” said Westervelt.

Random items from inside the cars are also for sale. And all the money goes back into the police department to help the program. Part of the money earned from the auction will pay a DWI officer’s salary, as well as three other civilian positions within the same program.

Police are working on expanding the seizure lot to fit even more cars.

Anyone can attend the auction, unless you’re a previous owner of the vehicle you’re trying to bid on. The public can view the vehicles from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. and the auction is on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. For more information, click here.

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