TABC launches new hotline for speedier investigations

"TRACE itself is an acronym for Target Responsibility for Alcohol-Connected Emergencies," said Bentley Nettles, TABC Executive Director.

Nettles says about every 20 minutes in Texas someone is hurt or killed in a car accident involving's one of the worst states for drinking and driving.

The thing is, Nettles points out the TABC isn’t a 24/7 operation so when an accident happens and law enforcement officers need TABC agents to investigate.

"There was no way to get them a message unless you had a personal contact so now with this 1-800 number we've centralized it so they can call anywhere in the state," Nettles said. 

The TABC says that rapid response is an important factor in investigating whether a licensed retailer like a bar, restaurant or convenience store violated the beverage code.

"In other words they were served after they were already intoxicated or if there was a minor involved and they shouldn't have been served at all," he said.  "If we don't get out there fairly quickly, then unfortunately like everything else evidence tends to degrade or disappear."

Evidence, according to Nettles, means credit card charges, surveillance video and witness statements.

In the past, the delays in investigating have been problematic.

"In 2017 we had roughly just shy of 400 source investigations that this agency conducted and because of some of the delays that we received in notifications we were only able to sustain those cases about 10% of the time," said TABC Chief of Law Enforcement Victor Kuykendoll. 

"Some of them you can't sustain because you know if they drank at home and then got in the car there's nothing we can do about that.  But if they were at a licensed location then we want to know," Nettles said.

The TRACE hotline is a partnership between multiple law enforcement agencies.  Texas Parks and Wildlife dispatchers will answer it and contact an on-call TABC agent in the area.  

So agents can now get to the retailers while the evidence is still fresh.  

Longtime downtown Austin entertainment business owner Bob Woody welcomes the new program.

"If a TABC officer came down right after something took place and was able to get testimony from somebody or at least see what their side of the story is, I think that's good versus having to do the investigation 10 days 2 weeks later because at that point there may not be any information, hard to remember things like that," Woody said.

But he does point out:

"The information that comes from the person whose caused the's not always reliable.  Typically they're drunk.  So always consider the source is what I would say.  The people that work for me, they're not intoxicated so they're doing their job," Woody said.