As we started the summer season over Memorial Day, the In Focus team exposed a growing issue on some of our waterways.
In Baltimore County waters alone -- we reported that in the past five years -- citations for operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs went from just nine to 84.
- Drunken boating citations double in Baltimore County
- Boating under the influence a growing problem in Maryland
- Lawmaker pleads guilty to drunken boating
It’s an increase police are responding to with what is called Operation Dry Water.
"National effort to increase boating safety and the awareness of how detrimental alcohol and boatingcan be to the public,” Lt. Offer, Natural Resources Police, said. “Not just to the person who is on the boat they are operating, but also the boaters around them."
The department joined forces with three other agencies to make that point over the weekend before the holiday and through the Fourth of July. What they found is not everyone is listening.
“We are not happy with the result because we found some people who are still consuming alcohol at levels where it is beyond the legal limit, but we are happy with the effort that the officers put out," Offer said.
Officers like Lindsey Markert who helped work the detail these last two weeks making more than 4,000 contacts with boaters, which resulted in 10 OUIs and almost 250 varied citations.
In the Inner Harbor alone there were five arrests of drunken boaters
"Every night you're going to find it out here. Somebody is not taking the warning seriously," Markert said.
"A lot of people get hurt and a lot of people pay a lot of fines because they think those two thing: I'm relaxing [and] I'm on a boat,” she continued. All those things go together and for us out here, our job is to remind people we want you to have fun , we want you to enjoy Maryland's waters, but you have to be safe while you do it."
A look at the danger of drunken boating:
It is a message NRP hopes will catch on by continuing to do saturation patrols like the ones boaters saw these past two weekends. But officers are aware of the stigma they are fighting.
Most feel the water is not nearly as dangerous as the roads and drinking while boating many believe -- just go together.
"We are going to be out here and we do plan on doing further saturation patrols,” Offer said. [Those numbers] will grow, unfortunately. We know that from our past experience and our efforts that we will go out here and we will find people who are consuming too much alcohol."
Offer said his department is planning other saturations throughout the summer.
Much like on our roads, police say make sure to designate a driver when on the water, a so-called sober skipper.