After a summer that has seen the area's deadliest spate of boating accidents in recent memory -- and just a few days ahead of the upcoming Labor Day weekend -- numerous county agencies announced at a press conference yesterday that they were forming a new task force aimed at cracking down on drunk boating in South Florida.
"It's a way to tighten up enforcement, ensuring that folks are not boating under the influence," Mike Hernandez, chief spokesperson for county mayor Carlos Gimenez, told Riptide.
The group, Hernandez said, is comprised of representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Miami-Dade Police Department, Villages of Key Biscayne and Bal Harbour, and Cities of Miami, Miami Beach, and North Miami. The coalition, which will meet every month, was formed as a way to share valuable marine policing resources and facilitate communication, the spokesman added.
This upcoming weekend, Hernandez said, holiday boaters can expect to see an increased presence of enforcement on the water, although he said the group hadn't specified how many boats would be on patrol.
"What they said was, 'We're actually going to go out there looking for folks who have been boating under the influence.'"
That kind of active enforcement of boating laws would represent a marked change in South Florida, where, as New Times reported earlier this summer, a culture of hedonism on the water has long coincided with lax regulation: Last year only 237 BUI citations were doled out by the FWC in the entire state, which has nearly 900,000 registered boats.
The new coalition was born, Hernandez said, out of numerous phone calls between Gimenez and Key Biscayne police chief Charles Press following the Fourth of July Dinner Key tragedy, in which a 32-foot Contender powerboat slammed into a 36-foot Carrera, killing four and leaving one in a coma. Authorities later reported that evidence of alcohol was found on the boat, although further details are still pending.
"Sometimes, unfortunately, in government you have separations," Hernandez said. "And we just don't want a wall to exist between the agencies. They want to work together."
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