Yates marine reports are region’s highest
YATES COUNTY—The Yates County marine patrol produced the highest number of vessel inspections and total arrests compared to the surrounding counties in the region.
Yates County inspected 3,905 marine vessels in 2011*. This number looks unusually high when compared to nearby areas like Schuyler (240), Steuben (442), Seneca (41) and Ontario (875) Counties. Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike said the marine patrol inspected 3,557 vessels in 2012, which is consistent with the number from the year before.
Explaining this large difference, Spike said it may be due to the way inspections are defined and reported between each county. He said not all vessels are actually stopped by the marine patrol to qualify as an inspection.
“I don’t know if everybody else does the inspections the same way we do,” Spike said. “I would daresay the actual vessels they put on the blue lights and stop and pull over is actually 8 to 10 percent of that number. [These] were actual boats who were physically stopped by the boat patrol and questioned about something they saw.”
Spike gave an example of what qualifies as an inspection, saying just a visual confirmation of a kayaker or canoer wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) during the winter months would be enough to qualify as an inspection.
“When our marine patrol is out on the lake, say they look over at Camp Cory and they see 30 canoes out there, and they look over with their binoculars and they all have PFDs on,” Spike said. “There are 30 vessels in compliance. I don’t have to stop them because I can see they are in compliance with the law. State parks and recreation likes to know that people who are on the water are in compliance, so we mark it down.”
Spike said he has talked to the New York State Parks and Recreation Marine Law Enforcement Bureau twice about the issue. He said he was told Yates County is recording their inspections correctly, and they have no problem with Yates’ method. However, Spike said he would be adding in an extra column in the marine patrol’s daily activity sheets for the officers to indicate the number of boats actually stopped and questioned. He said to imply the marine patrol is stopping more than 3,000 boaters a year is “bogus.”
When it comes to total arrests, Yates again tops the list with 101 in 2011. Meanwhile, Schuyler had 22, Steuben had 10, Seneca had four and Ontario had five. The Yates County Annual Sheriff’s Report shows a consistent number for 2012 with 84 arrests. Again, Spike said this number is higher because of the way it is reported by each county and the definition of what qualifies as an “arrest.”
“Those [the arrests] would have been tickets we issued for marine patrol appearance tickets,” Spike said. “When we have serious violations...they are going to get a ticket. I have zero tolerance for reckless operation and no PFDs. We use to issue all kinds of warnings and our tickets were low, but we have taken a position that we have got to get very serious on enforcement of some of these rules.”
Spike said he was surprised at how low the numbers of other counties were when compared to Yates. He said he has talked to both the Keuka Lake Association and the chamber of commerce, who both said they have received no complaints about the marine patrol. Meanwhile, Spike said the department received 294 navigation complaints of boaters in violation of the law in 2011, with a similar 278 complaints in 2012. He said many times the officers will use their discretion and only issue a verbal warning to a boater in violation.
“It’s usually something flagrant when you get a ticket,” Spike said. “It’s all about future behavior.”
Spike said the philosophy of the department has changed during the last five years due to how busy the area gets during the months of June, July and August. Spike said 90 percent of their activity is during those three months, and the county often polices like a county with a much more people due to the transient population and tourists.
Spike said the Yates County marine patrol is made up of eight marine patrol officers, many of whom are trained school teachers, who patrol Keuka, Seneca and Canandaigua Lakes part-time using three patrol boats. Spike said these officers have jurisdiction over anywhere on the water.
Spike said the total operation cost for the marine patrol in 2011, was $48,295, which includes everything including wages, boat repair and maintenance, and fuel. Spike also said 50 percent of the cost of operation is reimbursed by the state, which brings the net total cost to taxpayers to $24,147 in 2011.
* The New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s latest numbers account for 2011, and the numbers for 2012 have not been posted on the state website yet. However, the numbers released by the Yates County Sheriff’s department show the year 2012 to be consistent with 2011.