Boaters Like Increased Patrols On Rivers

Grasshopper Island, where the Tchoutacabouffa and Biloxi Rivers meet, is just one of several spots in Harrison County that's become a popular place for boaters.

Biloxi resident John Dunaway says he's out there every weekend. "If it's not storming, I'm out here Saturday and Sunday."

"If I don't get out here on weekends, I feel like I'm being deprived," Boo McCall said.

The regulars say they've noticed the increase in law enforcement and they like it.

"The more, the merrier," Matt McCall said. "These guys do a good job. They're very understanding, and they keep down the problems."

"If they see somebody driving rough, making waves out here, they'll talk to them and it generally works," Dunaway said.

In fact, some of the boaters we talked to say they wish there was even more law enforcement out here. Agents agree that with more than 50,000 registered boats and more than 500 square miles of water in Harrison County, more agents would be beneficial.

"The boaters we talk to ask why we aren't out here, seven days a week," said Richard Giraud, who heads the Harrison County Sheriff's Department's Marine Division.  "Manpower-wise, we just don't have the manpower, but we'd love to beef it up."

On weekends, the Sheriff's Department uses two boats and two jet skis to work together with the DMR's Marine Patrol, the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, the Coast Guard and the National Park Service.

"The more presence, just like anything else, you have police presence out here, people tend to obey the laws more," Giraud said.

Deputies write tickets or give verbal warnings when boaters aren't following the law and give kids coupons for free ice cream when they're doing things right.

Because they're on the river so often, deputies have become friends with the regulars.  Friendly waves let them know, their work to keep the rivers safe is much appreciated.

Harrison County deputies have been writing more tickets for boating under the influence, reckless operation, having improper safety equipment, among other things. Fines can be up to $500.