Boating safety top priority this Memorial Day weekend

Deputies now using personal watercraft to patrol on the water

Deputy R.C. Williams

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) —It’s not unusual to find cops on the road conducting traffic stops in either a patrol car or a motorcycle. But on boats?  Now, that’s a different style of policing—a style that’s expected to be used a lot over Memorial Day weekend.

Deputy R.C. Williams

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is now using personal watercraft to keep the waters safe.

The agency began employing the tactic this year, and Deputy R.C. Williams, a Marine Unit deputy, believes it’s already working.

“It gives our deputies an opportunity to get in close with the crowd,” said Williams. “Even landing and going on the beach and they can usually interdict before the problem breaks out.”

Deputy Williams is one of several deputies patrolling the waters of Tampa Bay this holiday weekend.  The Tampa Police Department, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard have joined forces to make sure everyone in the water is safe, sober and seen—boater visibility is an instrumental part of the plan.

Several law enforcement vessels circled Beer Can Island on Saturday as dozens of boaters docked to picnic, listen to music and swim.

“Letting each of the boat operators know that we are here,” Williams says of his duties.  “And the crowd is usually very helpful with us.”

Several boaters at Williams Park on the Alafia River noticed the increasing law enforcement presence.

“I saw them walking around beer can island. I saw them out and about on jet skis … Hadn’t seen them on jet ski’s before,” said Lakesha Cook.  “But they were cool. It wasn’t like they were intimidating or anything. Just to know that they were there I guess was kind of nice,” Cook continued.

Deputy Williams tells us most boaters seem to be obeying the rules and he believes the number of boaters operating under the influence is on the decrease.

You can tell he truly enjoys his time on the water. “It’s a great day to be out on the water,” Williams said.  “I’m the luckiest man alive.”

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