Sheriff's Marine Patrol Keeps Watch On Waterways

HARRISON COUNTY (WLOX) -- It's easy to get caught up in the moment, cutting across South Mississippi waterways. But the blue lights of the Harrison County Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol are a sobering reminder that with that privilege, comes responsibility.

"Watch your speed, okay?" Lt. Ron Harmon told one jet skier.

Lt. Harmon took over the helm of the Harrison County Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol in April. He patrols 500 square miles of waterways from just south of the barrier islands to rivers in the northern part of the county. He believes in his work and believes the warnings he gives will ultimately save lives.

"Our primary thing is safety. I can't stress that enough. With today's traffic on the water, we're just safety, safety, safety," Lt. Harmon said. "We're not out here to write tickets or keep you from having a good time. Consider us an educational tool, if you will."

Lt. Harmon keeps an eye out for reckless drivers and those who may be boating under the influence. And, of course, they are always enforcing the life jacket laws. The law requires a life jacket for every person on board, and children 12 and younger are required to wear them when the boat is less than 26 feet long.

Lt. Harmon says there are also a lot of hidden dangers facing boaters.

"We have a lot more congestion than we've had before, then you add debris in the water. They have to swerve to miss it, and it could cause an accident. Courtesy on the water is the most important thing," Lt. Harmon said.

Here are some other reminders from the Harrison County Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol:

  • Anyone born after June 30, 1980 must complete a boating education course.
  • All boaters younger than 12 must be accompanied on board by an adult who is at least 21.
  • Boaters who have a blood alcohol content of .10 or greater are considered boating under the influence.
  • Typically no wake zones established around marinas or boat launches are 100 feet or more.