With spring here and summer just a few weeks away, millions of folks will soon start to enjoy and navigate America’s numerous waterways.
Few people realize, however, that there is a program, organized by the U.S. Coast Guard, which asks the everyday American to be the extra eyes and ears of law enforcement in keeping our waterways safe and secure.
Pirates may not prey in U.S. territorial waters, but criminals do. In addition to everyday illegal activity, America's coasts, rivers, bridges, tunnels, ports, ships, military bases, and waterside industries may be the terrorists' next targets.
But with more than 95,000 miles of shoreline, more than 290,000 square miles of water and approximately 70 million recreational boats in the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard and local first responders can't do the job alone.
That is where a program created by the Coast Guard, known as “America’s Waterway Watch,” comes into play.
According to the Coast Guard, all Americans should be aware of suspicious activities on and near our waterways.
Possible suspicious activity may include things like:
• People appearing to engage in surveillance, i.e., note taking, making video/photos or sketches, asking questions
• Unattended vessels or vehicles in unusual locations
• Lights flashing between boats
• Unusual diving activity
• Unusual number of people onboard
• Unusual night operations
• Recovering or tossing items into/onto the waterway or shoreline
• Operating in or passing through an area that does not typically have such activity
• Fishing or hunting in locations not typically used for those activities
• Missing fencing or lighting near sensitive locations
• Anchoring in an area not typically used for anchorage
• Transfer of people or things between ships or between ship and shore outside of port
• Anyone operating in an aggressive manner
• Individuals establishing businesses or roadside food stands near sensitive locations
• Small planes flying over critical locations
• People attempting to buy or rent fishing or recreational vessels with cash for short-term, undefined use
In addition, the Coast Guard suggests watching for possible suspicious vessels and individuals in locations such as:
• Under and around bridges, tunnels, or overpasses
• Near commercial areas or services like ports, fuel docks, cruise ships, marinas
• Near industrial facilities such as power plants and oil, chemical, or water intake facilities
• Near military bases and vessels, other government facilities, or security zones
The Coast Guard also offers these useful vessel security ideas:
1 -- Secure and lock your boat when not on board
2 -- Take the keys of the vessel with you
3 -- Disable the engine on stored or trailered boats, and make sure the boat is not easily moved
Quick Security Tip: Do not approach or challenge anyone acting in a suspicious manner. To report suspicious activity, call the National Response Center at 800-424-8802 or 877-24WATCH.
For immediate danger to life or property call 911 right away.
For more information on the America’s Waterway Watch program, log on to the U.S. Coast Guard Web site at www.uscg.mil.
My Final Thoughts: Millions of Americans either work on or recreationally use our country’s vast waterways. As the Coast Guard puts it, a person who spends much of their time on or near the water, already knows what is normal and what is not, and they are well suited to notice suspicious activities, including activities possibly indicating threats to our nation's homeland security.
Participants in America's Waterway Watch are urged to adopt a heightened sensitivity toward unusual events or individuals that they may encounter in or around ports, docks, marinas, riversides, beaches, or waterfront communities.
During our nation’s battle against terrorism, it is imperative that all Americans do their small part in assisting to protect our homeland, and America’s Waterway Watch is just one example of how the average person can “lend a hand” just by keeping their eyes and ears open to any suspicious activities.
Bruce (Mandelblit.com) is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer. His e-mail address is: [email protected].
This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.
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