NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - We've made a discovery about crime that came as a surprise to many local law enforcement agencies. Officers throughout New Hanover County made almost 1000 fewer drunk driving arrests last year than they did in 2008, about a 30% drop.  Many agencies were not even aware of the significant decline in arrests until we asked about it, and they have a variety of theories about why this is happening.

People may be more informed than they used to be about the consequences of driving while impaired, and apps like Uber make it easier and often cheaper than ever to get a ride home if you've had too much to drink. From an enforcement perspective, there has also been a rise in other kinds of crime that have shifted officers' focus.

Local defense attorneys say they've noticed a drop in their DWI business, especially in some jurisdictions.

"Wrightsville Beach used to have a ton of DWI arrests. Their focus is not as much as it has been in the past on impaired driving. Doesn't mean people aren't drinking and driving out there – it's the officers are not focusing on trying to find impaired drivers," Wilmington Attorney Jimmy McGee said of the trend.

Coming up tonight in a special report at 11:00 PM, local law enforcement talk about why they've shifted manpower to other crimes. We'll also take a look at how the so-called "Ferguson effect" may play a role, and we will analyze if the decreased enforcement has led to a spike in fatalities.