VIRGINIA

Fairfax police keep an eye on boaters

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One way to beat the heat is to jump on a boat and hit the water. With so many people on local rivers, safety is a priority for the Fairfax County Marine Patrol unit.

The Fairfax County police's new river patrol boat. (Photo by Gail Pennybacker)

A main concern, officers say, is that people who anchor their boats would drink excessively. Police say more people are anchoring in the wider part of the river, where officers are on patrol for excessive drinking.

"When they're staying and they're staying in that area, they're going to drink and consume alcohol through the course of the day. That's a large concern of ours” said Officer Matt Grubb. Drinking and driving a boat is against the law in Virginia.

The unit is patrolling the Potomac River in its newest high-tech tool, a new boat. In a new, faster police boat, the Marine Patrol unit is able to catch up with problems on the water. Boater Lane Dehaven says a stronger hand is a really needed out here.

“People just acting like idiots out here,” Dehaven said.

After the heavy flooding of the past few weeks, dangerous debris is flowing in this part of the river. Officers tagged one large log with an orange float to tried to prevent someone from crashing into it.

“You imagine any boat, like the fast boats doing 60-70 mph through here, they hit that, it's bad,” said Officer Lance Hamilton.

Police have noticed other changes. With high gas prices, fewer boaters from Prince William and Fairfax County will travel up river toward the District, instead staying in the wide open part of the river near the Occoquan.

“When they're staying and they're staying in that area, they're going to drink and consume alcohol through the course of the day, that's a large concern of ours,” Officer Matt Grubb said.

Officers are also spreading the word about a new law that goes into effect July 1st and requires anyone under the age of 50 to have a license to operate a personal watercraft.

 

 

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