Utica NY: Latest concern is refugees driving drunk

In 2005, the UN was promoting Utica as the “Town that Loves Refugees.”

Utica police and judges say the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees needs to develop a program to stem a growing problem of refugees driving under the influence.

Check out the information at the Resource Center’s website, here.  It was established by the Lutheran contractor, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

The largest number of refugees resettled there come from Bosnia and the refugee population is now 12% of the city.  In another report I saw that the refugee population is 1/4th of the “welcoming” city’s population, but that seems like a stretch to me.

Here is a list of the 31 countries represented by refugees in Utica.

From the Utica Observer-Dispatch (Hat tip:  ‘pungentpeppers’)  Emphasis is mine:

First, it was car seats.

Then, it was driving lessons.

The next expansion of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugee’s driving education program? Teaching non-native populations the dangers of driving under the influence.

“Driving while intoxicated is a foreign concept to them,” said Alban Uryniak, traffic and safety instructor for the center and former Utica Police Department sergeant.

Jean Skahan, training manager for the driving safety programs at the center, said in an email that drunk and distracted driving “is a growing problem among certain refugee groups.”

She said that Utica police and judges have requested the refugee center concentrate on this issue this year.

Most times when a refugee is involved in an arrest, Utica police Lt. Steve Hauck said alcohol is involved, though it is not always in a car.

“Sometimes, it’s driving; sometimes it’s domestic,” he said.

In an effort to combat the problem, the refugee center is pairing with the Oneida County STOP DWI Program to eventually offer workshops that would teach interpreters ways to communicate with the various refugee and immigrant populations about the subject, how to prevent it and explaining what might happen if they’re involved in an accident.

Language barriers are not the only things that could get in the way of the refugee communities that will participate in the workshops. Driving culture is just as varied as the languages people speak, Uryniak said.  [But, that diversity gives us strength—right!—ed]

We have several previous posts on Utica, here.  And, here, is one about a big food stamp fraud bust there.

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