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Daily Patrols Take to the Water

Memorial Day weekend launches boating season.

PFC Brian Bowman (left) and PFC Matthew Grubb start their shift with the Fairfax County Police Marine Patrol Unit on May 26 looking for safety violations, unsafe boaters, or anything that looks out of the ordinary. They are patrolling Fairfax County shoreline and waterways. Grubb is a full time officer with the Marine Patrol Unit and Bowman is an officer at the Fair Oaks Station, qualified to assist the unit. From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, the Unit is on patrol seven days a week enforcing water safety rules and regulations and educating the public about water safety.

PFC Brian Bowman (left) and PFC Matthew Grubb start their shift with the Fairfax County Police Marine Patrol Unit on May 26 looking for safety violations, unsafe boaters, or anything that looks out of the ordinary. They are patrolling Fairfax County shoreline and waterways. Grubb is a full time officer with the Marine Patrol Unit and Bowman is an officer at the Fair Oaks Station, qualified to assist the unit. From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, the Unit is on patrol seven days a week enforcing water safety rules and regulations and educating the public about water safety. Photo by Deb Cobb.

The warm holiday weekend brought the opening of boating season on the Potomac watershed and Fairfax County’s inland lakes and waterways. In Fairfax and surrounding Virginia counties (Prince William, Alexandria, Arlington, Loudoun and Stafford) there are more than 4,000 registered recreational boats.

For three years, the Fairfax County Police Department has deployed a Marine Patrol Unit staffed with EMT-trained SWAT officers who have their Coast Guard captain’s licenses to ensure the safety of boaters in Fairfax County waters. The unit operates two boats, a 35-foot Marlago and a special purpose 19-foot flat-bottom Carolina skip. The skip is used to patrol shallow areas like Lake Braddock and Lake Barcroft while the Marlago patrols the waters of Occoquan/Belmont Bay, Pohick Bay, Little Hunting Creek, Dogue Creek, Belle Haven and the 100 miles of Virginia shoreline that is in Fairfax County.

“Our mission is safety, education, and enforcement,” said Police Officer First Class Matthew Grubb, a 10-year veteran of the FCPD and one of the full time Marine Patrol officers. The Marine Patrol Unit provides safety inspections of boats, spotting and addressing safety violations of boaters, checking boat registrations, BUI (boating under the influence) checkpoints, wake-enforcement — ensuring that boats are not speeding in no-wake zones, providing emergency response and assistance and coordinating with other emergency services on the water. In addition, the unit operates with the Fairfax County Dive Team.

The boating community is welcoming of the Marine Patrol Unit. Said Harbor Master Jim Brooks of the Belmont Bay Harbor Marina, “Any time you have a police presence, it cuts back on the no-gooders.”

The unit is launching a program aimed at promoting boating safety among children. If a boat is stopped by the Marine Patrol Unit this summer and children are wearing their PFDs (personal flotation devices), they’ll get a t-shirt. If the children aren’t wearing PFDs, boater will get a warning or a summons. PFDs are required for all children under the age of 13.

“Last year we didn’t have any drownings and we’re shooting for that this year. Education is the main focus of the unit followed by enforcement. We hope to educate people about boating while intoxicated, and we will have more BUI enforcement this summer,” said head of the Marine Patrol Unit Second Lieutenant Lance Schaible of the Special Operations Division.