Tony Karg spent 14 years at the Pasadena PD before he joined the Anaheim PD a little more than four years ago.
He was a motor officer in Pasadena for five years, and for the last three he’s been a motor in Anaheim.
But it wasn’t until he became a certified DRE (Drug Recogniton Expert) when the number of DUI arrests he made took off. It gave him the skills, he said, to more effectively recognize suspected impaired drivers.
In 2017, Karg logged a little more than 50 DUI arrests.
Last year, that total skyrocketed to 101, which earned Karg a Century Award at a recent Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) ceremony.
“It’s a pretty cool honor,” Karg said. “I just want to work hard. Whatever assignment I’m given, I put 100-percent effort into it.”
Karg was among more than 100 law enforcement personnel honored Wed., April 10, at the 2019 MADD Southern California Law Enforcement & Prosecutor Luncheon, held at Los Coyotes Country Club in Buena Park.
Although highway deaths caused by drunk driving crashes have been cut in half nationwide since 1988, “this success has created a misconception that drunk driving is no longer a major issue,” said Cristi Walker, a senior program specialist for MADD Southern California in San Diego who served as emcee at the April 10 event.
“However, as we all know, this is not the case,” Walker said.
Drunk-driving crashes remain a major cause of death and injuries on America’s highways, with over 10,000 fatalities and 290,000 injuries annually.
The top DUI arresting officer in Orange County in 2018 was Officer Grant Hasselback of the Huntington Beach PD, with 370 DUI arrests.
Deuce Awards were given to officers and deputies with 25-49 arrests.
MADD Awards were bestowed on those with 50-99 arrests.
And Century Awards were given to those with 100 or more DUI arrests.
Prosecutors also were honored at the ceremony. The 2018 Prosecutor of the Year awards went to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office’s Traffic Safety Resource Prosecution (TSRP) Team. The three honorees on the team were Hoon Chang, deputy district attorney; Dalia Wahab, deputy district attorney; and Eric Franke, DA investigator.
“(This is) an opportunity for us to really show how much we care about law enforcement and prosecutors,” Patricia Rillera, MADD California state executive director, said in opening remarks.
Said Walker: “In this room, we are among hardworking men and women of law enforcement who work diligently to remove impaired drivers from our streets, prosecutors who work hard to hold those offenders accountable for their actions, and community heroes who are consistently trying to make our community a safer place.”
Walker said MADD’s goal is to change the “apathetic culture” surrounding drinking and driving.
MADD provides numerous services to Southern California residents, including servicing victims and families of drunk and drugged driving crashes at no cost, lobbying to support stronger drunk driving laws, and delivering underage drinking prevention strategies to thousands of underage youth and parents.
In 2019, MADD will be adding death notification training to its services.
The non-profit also offers court-mandated victim impact panels for DUI offenders to help them recognize and internalize how their choice to abuse driving under the influence harms their community.
“MADD’s mission and focus has not wavered over the years,” Walker said. “These tragic deaths and injuries continue to drive our efforts to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of this violent crime, and prevent underage drinking.
During the MADD ceremony, a moment of silence was held for California Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Licon, who was killed April 6, 2019 by a suspected impaired driver following a traffic stop in Lake Elsinore.
The 27-year CHP veteran is survived by a wife and two children.
“No job is more dangerous or more thankless than an officer on duty,” Walker said.
Victim speaker Nadine Dorado, a MADD Southern California volunteer, suffered a crushed spine, injured neck, and other life-threatening injuries when she was involved in a four-vehicle car crash caused by a drunk driver on April 30, 2017.
“All I could think of was, ‘This is it. My life is over,’’’ Dorado said.
Emergency spine surgery saved her life – and mobility.
“Even after all the surgeries I’ve had and all the treatments I’ve received, I’m saddened to see that my life will never ever be the same since the crash,” Dorado said. “I was fortunate enough to become a part of (MADD), which has truly helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Karg was the APD’s top arresting officer last year.
Other APD officers recognized at the MADD event were MADD Award winner Officer Gary Verpooten (85) and Deuce Award winners Officer Matt Ellis (48), Officer Kenneth Edgar (38), Officer Adrian Capacete (28), and Officer Mike Padilla (27).
As of this week, Karg is ahead of last year’s DUI arrest pace, with 54 so far as of Wednesday, April 24.
Karg said about 70 percent of the arrests he made in 2018 involved drivers who were high on marijuana.
“We have a many marijuana dispensaries in the city,” Karg said.
He said there are impaired drivers all over the city – not just concentrated in certain areas.
“I’ve seen a lot of fatalities (in Pasadena mostly) and crashes over the years in which alcohol or drugs were involved,” Karg said. “It’s very sad – and completely preventable.”