21 charged in water safety crackdown Enforcement sweep targets boating violations in eastern Baltimore Co.

June 24, 1996|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,SUN STAFF

In an effort to curb danger on the waterways, law enforcement officials charged 21 boaters with violations ranging from speeding to drunken boating in eastern Baltimore County over the weekend.

Federal, state and county officials combined forces Friday and Saturday nights to inspect 64 vessels in Middle River, Back River and around Hart-Miller Island, a spokesman said yesterday.

One boater, a 39-year-old man from Joppa, was charged Saturday morning with operating a vessel while intoxicated, which carries maximum penalties of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, said Bob Graham, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The two-day boating enforcement effort was the first of four planned for Maryland waterways this year.

Officials issued citations and warnings for offenses such as speeding, failing to have life jackets for everyone on board and failing to have proper navigational lighting. Several people on personal watercraft were cited for operating them after dark. Those violations carry various fines of up to $500, Graham said.

Natural Resources police, State Forest and Park Service rangers, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Baltimore County Police Department participated in the operation.

The focus was safety education, with an emphasis on finding drunken boaters. Alcohol and drugs contribute to more than half of all boating accidents and deaths, Graham said.

"We want to remind boaters how important it is to operate in a safe and legal manner when they are on the water," said Lt. jg Robert Keith of the Coast Guard. "And with the cooperation of all these agencies [this weekend], we were able to reach almost every boat operating in the Middle River area."

Officials picked eastern Baltimore County in part because of complaints about drunken boating in the popular boating spot. Last year an intoxicated man fell off his vessel and drowned, Graham said.

Officials found fewer drunken boat operators last weekend than they did during a similar sweep one weekend in late July of last year.

During a 1995 boating safety operation in the same area, officials charged 14 people with drunken boating, eight people with possession of marijuana or cocaine, and two with assaulting a police officer and disorderly conduct, Graham said.

The substantial decrease in the number of people charged with drunken boating last weekend "could mean that our efforts last year were successful and the word was getting out," Graham said. "But maybe we hit a lucky weekend or a safe weekend. Unfortunately, it only takes one person to create a serious or fatal accident on the water."

Boaters over the age of 24 are not required to take a boating safety course, and some do not know the rules, Graham said.

"There are segments of the population that get boats and don't know the rules. A lot of what was done in the last two nights was education. Officers got to spend time talking to boaters and checking boats for safety features, such as life jackets, a horn or whistle, a working fire extinguisher, and a throwable life cushion," he said.

Pub Date: 6/24/96

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