Police officers are cruising Long Island’s waterways this Fourth of July and through the weekend in an enforcement effort aimed at cracking down on intoxicated boaters and other violators.
“Nassau County police take a very strict view of BWI enforcement,” said Marine Bureau Officer Joel Fuoco, a 46-year department veteran, who took a Newsday reporter on one of the department’s vessels Tuesday on Zach’s Bay off of Jones Beach. “We’re going to be very active this holiday.”
Nassau’s fleet of seven boats will be on waterways on the North and South shores, as recreational boaters crowd the water for leisure time and to watch fireworks.
Vessels from the Suffolk police’s Marine Bureau also are stepping up enforcement efforts through the weekend.
Suffolk is home to the largest recreational boating population in the state, and Nassau is second.
The counties also lead in the number of arrests: Suffolk made 1,545 waterway arrests in 2016, while Nassau made 209, according to the state’s annual recreational boating report.
Safety on local waterways is paramount, police said. Officers will be concentrating on speed enforcement, reckless driving, boating while intoxicated and ensuring that children younger than 12 are wearing life jackets, as required by state law.
Speed limits on New York’s waterways vary from 5 mph to 12 mph, police said.
Last year, there were 51 boating accidents in Suffolk, resulting in 37 injuries and six fatalities, according to the state report. Nassau had 24 accidents with 20 reported injuries and two fatalities, the report said.
“Boats don’t come equipped with brakes, so when a boat has to stop in a short period of time, and it’s transitioning at a high rate of speed, it’s going to have a very difficult time doing that,” Fuoco said.