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BWI sobriety checkpoints Labor Day weekend

A Nassau County Police boat on patrol in

A Nassau County Police boat on patrol in Reynolds Channel. (Oct. 21, 2010) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

In a Labor Day weekend first, Suffolk police are setting up sobriety checkpoints on the water in an effort to stop drunken boaters.

The Marine Bureau checkpoints were spurred by an uptick in arrests for boating while intoxicated this year, Police Commissioner Edward Webber said Friday.

The police Marine Bureau has stepped up patrols against drunken boaters this summer, Webber said. The crackdown became more urgent after a West Islip man drowned when a powerboat operated by an intoxicated boater broadsided his fishing boat off Captree Island on June 23, police said.

"Some would believe that being on the water operating a boat is different from operating a motor vehicle on land," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said at a Friday news conference to announce the plan. But on the highways and on the water, Bellone said, "we will be out in force."

Police first did sobriety checkpoints on the water on Aug. 25, Webber said, adding that drivers of two of the 10 boats checked that day were arrested.

This weekend, police boats will be at narrow sections where boats are forced to slow and congregate, said Webber, who declined to disclose the locations. For a period of time, all boats will be stopped and police will talk to boat operators to determine whether they are intoxicated, he said. If needed, suspected drunken boaters will be given sobriety checks on land, Webber said.

Arrests for boating while intoxicated, Webber said, went from a total of 12 over the past three years to 15 this year, as of Aug. 28. He attributed the increase to more enforcement.

After the June boating death, state legislators proposed tougher boating-while-intoxicated laws and made it mandatory for boaters to pass a safety course.

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