There's something in the water, and apparently it's alcohol.
Novato is having a stunning spike in arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It might even be an unprecedented surge.
In the first nine days of September, there were 18 arrests for DUI by the . The average monthly total over the past year was 15.6, and the high month was 26 in July of this year.
At a rate of two arrests per day through the first nine days, September could hit 60 if the pace is maintained.
"It's contrary to what would seem natural," said Chief of Police Jim Berg. "I would like to think our officers are getting more attuned to the signs of impaired driving. We've spent a lot of money getting our officers trained in advanced DUI investigation skills, and we're seeing the rewards of that investment."
Novato police at a Friday night/Saturday morning sobriety checkpoint on South Novato Boulevard, a high number compared to past checkpoints. In fact, many checkpoints result in no DUI arrests. The argument has been made in the past that making no arrests doesn't mean the checkpoint wasn't successful.
Even when there is a relatively high number arrested at a checkpoint or on normal patrols, there's no way of knowing how many drivers are exceeding the .08 percent blood-alcohol level that marks the legal limit.
"Those (arrests) are just the ones we're coming across," Sgt. Jennifer Dunlap said. "Those are just the ones we're catching, so you can imagine how many we're not getting. I don't know why there's such an uptick."
Sgt. Jennifer Welch said the Novato Police Department "aggressively enforces all laws surrounding driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. With summer ending and a spike in DUIs, patrol officers remain vigilant in their efforts to combat drunk driving."
In addition to Novato PD arrests, the Marin office of the California Highway Patrol recorded four arrests of Novato residents as suspected DUI drivers through Sept. 10, Officer Eric Hohmeister said.
Could September end up as a record month for DUI arrests in Novato? There would have to be a dramatic downturn to avoid it.
"I'm hoping it's just a temporary spike we're seeing," Berg said, "but rest assured that with the commitment to traffic investigation and specifically to DUI investigation, it will be our priority. It is a direct threat to each and every one of our citizens, whether it's a pedestrian, a bicyclist or a motorist, to have impaired drivers behind the wheel."