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NC Wildlife patrols waters on holiday weekend

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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- North Carolina Wildlife, along with Alcohol Law Enforcement and Highway Patrol combed New Hanover County's waters and streets Saturday as part of the "On the Roads, On the Water" campaign.

"Oh, no, I hope we're not in too big of trouble," boater Steven Lienharte said.

That's probably what most of us think when we hear a siren and see flashing blue lights, but Wildlife officers say their presence on the water is just as much about education as it is about reprimanding.

"If I could come to work every day and all the vessels I check had all their safety equipment and everyone had a sober operator, that would be fine with me. We are more here to educate people," Ofc. Billy Cain said.

Officers stopped boats all day, performing routine safety inspections.

"We have seven life-jackets, a fire extinguisher. My six-year-old son had an age-appropriate life jacket for him," Matthew Lester said as he pulled onto shore from a day of boating.

But not all the kids out for a day of cruising had a Coast Guard approved life jacket. If boaters do not have the correct type of life vest, or are missing safety equipment and are stopped by law enforcement, they could be fined.

"If we have to write a ticket or issue a citation, we will. We'd much rather everyone has their equipment and be doing everything safe," Ofc. Cain said.

Wildlife officers say that most boaters do not realize that when their patrol boats have their blue lights on and are pulling another boat over, there is a 100-foot no-wake zone around their vessel.

"If somebody comes by and throws a wake, there could be injuries to officers, vessels or the people on the vessels," Ofc. Cain said.

Safety is a concern for all, and boaters are thankful for the patrol.

"I know people are out there doing what they don't need to be doing, and I am glad they're out there," Brandon Lollis said.

Wildlife had six boats out on the water with 14 officers on patrol. As a result of pulling boats over for routine safety checks, the agency arrested five people for boating while impaired. Officers patrolled the waters until about 9 p.m. Saturday.

This is the third year of "On the Roads, On the Water" campaign. It begins on Memorial Day and wraps up on Labor Day.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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They're focusing on the wrong thing

The biggest problem anytime you have a huge surge in boating traffic is the number of people who don't know or don't care about the rules of the road.

I'd rather see them focus on making people operate their boats safely, paying attention to who/what their wake is affecting rather than pull random people over to check for safety equipment.

Good job!

We were out shrimping Saturday evening and the water cops were everywhere stopping boats. We were scrutinized a couple of times but weren't boarded. Overall I think they had a positive effect. There didn't seem to be as many drunken idiots on the water (or on the road) as past July 4th holidays.

"routine safety stops" - they are out to get you

gone are the days when you can go out on your boat and enjoy a day on the water around here.
"they" are out to get you. "they" come in different stripes on boats with different lettering but they are all after one thing - the opportunity to get some money out of you to justify their jobs. there's a lot of competition amongst the "they" what with the highway patrol joining the wildlife, the coast guard, and the county "they." it gets nasty game out there and you, in your boat, are just another bunch of points for cash.
i'm glad i was able to enjoy the waters of our coast for 50 years without the harassment, and i feel sorry for the ones coming along who won't be able to.

Violation of Fourth Amendment rights

This is pure BS. Boaters have been navigating the waters of this world for 100,000 years, without education from LE or having their gear checked. NC has around 20 boating deaths a year, per population boating deaths and accidents have not changed in 50 years.....We had the first boating death in these waters in many years from a genuine accident that appears to be caused by neglect and careless operation, and this was on the day LE saturated the waters of WB which has never had a boating death that I can recall ( Maybe 10 years ago, a man fell while getting out of his boat and hit his head).
What is needed is speed limits, more no wake zones, and enforcement thereof, and enforcement of marine law right of ways---all of which there is very little if none at all.
We are not at war here, we do not need the check points and violation of rights. People should not accept this----