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Sheriff's Marine Unit Stressing the Importance of Boating Safety

Sheriff's Marine Unit Stressing the Importance of Boating Safety

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The Buffalo News via YellowBrix

May 29, 2010

Pulling up to the port side to a boat anchored in Buffalo’s inner Friday, a deputy with the Erie County Sheriff’s Marine Unit asked the two fishermen if they could produce the essentials of safe boating.

Personal flotation devices? Check.

Horn? Audible check.

Distress flag or flares? Check.

For the marine unit, Memorial Day weekend patrols have begun.

Such inspections will be repeated countless times all weekend — and throughout the summer — by the several law enforcement agencies that patrol local waterways.

At an earlier news conference at Erie Basin Marina, Sheriff Tim Howard and deputies in the marine unit offered advice for boat owners and operators — particularly before they leave the launch.

“Go over your vessels … like you’re buying them for the first time,” Howard said. “Take a little time to make sure they’re safe.”

Technical Sgt. Martin Bronisz emphasized the importance of safety equipment. “It’s better to check it before you leave [the] dock,” he said.

Sgt. Rick Lauricella added: “Know where the reefs are. Know where the rocks are.”

There are 26,000 boats registered in Erie County, the sheriff said. Statewide, only Nassau and Monroe counties have more.

The Sheriff’s Marine Unit patrols approximately 90 miles of shoreline, from the mouth of Cattaraugus Creek to the northern tip of Grand Island. The centrally located base for their two, 36-foot boats is a marina in the Riverside section of Buffalo.

Other law enforcement agencies with marine patrols include the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Border Patrol, State Police, State Parks Police, and the City of Tonawanda and Town of Evans Police Departments.

While the federal agencies focus more on immigration and homeland security issues, “Our job here is to enforce New York State law, search and rescue,” Lauricella said.

In response to boaters’ complaints that they’ve been subjected to multiple safety inspections during the course of a day, Erie County is introducing a new program. This year, boaters who’ve passed an inspection by the Sheriff’s Marine Unit will be given a sticker — good for the season — to display on their vessel.

Having the sticker doesn’t mean other agencies automatically will give you a pass, Howard said, but the program was developed to minimize the redundancy.

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