The Rocky River police marine patrol unit is regularly spotted out on the water during the summer months when it seems all of the West Shore flocks to the lakefront.
The 27-foot-long black-and-white boat, named Argus 5, is out again on weekends this summer. City Council accepted a $30,000 grant as part of the Marine Patrol Assistance Grant Program.
The grant comes from the Ohio Division of Natural Resources, which provides 75% of the funds for operations up to $30,000. The city provides the other 25%, the city will be receiving the full $30,000 this year.
Detective Tracey Hill oversees the patrol this year, his first time. Hill has worked with the marine patrol for seven years.
Since the 1960s, the city has owned, operated and run a marine patrol to monitor water activity from the river out into Lake Erie.
A two-officer crew patrols the waterways Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from late May until early September.
Ten officers work the marine patrol in addition to their normal 40-hour week, Hill said. They then sign up for marine patrol hours.
Hill said one officer operates the boat and the other works as crew, but ideally there would be three officers present to handle more difficult rescues. The patrol is responsible for weekends and holidays.
There are usually several marine patrol officers working throughout the week and if called they are able to take the boat out and perform rescues as needed.
Hill went out in early July with another officer to rescue a kayaker.
Last year the patrol performed 127 vessel safety checks; issued 513 warnings, including 143 for not having a personal floatation device; executed 43 vessel assists and 27 search and rescue cases.
“The majority of our work now is with kayaks, and then the stand up paddleboards,” Hill said.
He said people sometimes will be on the river where it is calm water and when they go onto the lake the wind can kick up and the dynamics can change quickly and they can get knocked into the water.
Hill said inexperience can lead to these rescues where people rent kayaks or paddle boards and not fully know the different factors that go into these activities.
“They just don't really know what it's like or what can happen and so they kind of underestimate things and get themselves into a bad situation,” Hill said.
The patrol assists in medical emergencies as well and aids the U.S. Coast Guard, Ohio Division of Natural Resources and Cleveland Metroparks.
The patrol runs from Avon Point in Lorain County down into Cleveland. They’re deputized by the county so they have jurisdiction throughout the lake. The marine patrol groups have monthly settings to work together and coordinate efforts for water safety, including the rivers leading into the lake.
“We're actually in the rivers quite a bit, especially Rocky River because it's really kind of peppered with a lot of different kayaks and paddle boards, there's a lot of activity down there,” Hill said. “A lot of what we do is really educate people about what they need, like with a stand up paddleboard, you have to have a whistle and you have to have a life jacket.”
Mayor Pam Bobst said the marine patrol grant is in partnership with the Ohio Division of Natural Resources, the current grant received is for the operations of the patrol. In the past, grants have been used to purchase vessels as well.
“I have noticed (the patrol) has been out there, there's been a lot of activity on the water,” Bobst said. “Jet skis just turn over to get a couple people in the water, kayaks turn over, they can't get back up, they have been busy this early part of the summer.”
She said the patrol is an important asset to the city surrounded by water, especially when residents enjoy water-based recreational activities.
“I really appreciate that our police department has secured these funds and continues to actively patrol the river and, and the lakefront, all in an effort to keep boating, safe, and other watersports safe for our residents and visitors,” Bobst said.
Hill said the marine patrol is vital to the community, and in some ways undervalued in its function.
“People wouldn’t recognize the importance of it unless they walked in our shoes and saw how inexperienced people are and how they get themselves in really bad positions in the water,” Hill said. “The Coast Guard is pretty far from us, they’re down in Cleveland and even when they’re activated it takes time to get on a boat and get out here, those couple of minutes makes a huge difference.”
Contact this reporter at email@example.com or 440-871-5797.