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Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department beefing up navigation unit for boating season

Ellen Abbott

There will be more deputies patrolling local lakes and rivers this summer according to Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway. The department will hire a dozen retired men and women from law enforcement on a part-time basis to augment the Navigation Patrol already in place.

"With these additional resources and personnel, we’re going to have a very noticable increase in our navigation presence, and want everyone to be safe out there, and just know we’re going to be out there to help everyone to have fun," Conway said. 

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Navigation Unit Supervisor Sergeant Jim McKenna with the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department talks how they are adding law enforcement and technology to keep the area's waterways safe this summer.

There will also be more technology in the county’s fleet of boats according to Navigation Patrol Supervisor Seargent Jim McKenna. He says in particular, there will be an enhanced marine radar and thermal imaging camera on the department's 21-foot Boston Whaler, which is its emergency response craft.

"A lot of our accidents and bad things happen at night in dark," McKenna said. "It’s really hard to see someone in the water. Even with the sun, the glare of on the water - it’s hard to see. The Flip can see that on the screen instantly. That’s a huge thing for search and rescue."

There will also be two Sea-Doo’s that will be able to navigate shallow water. All these items were either donated or paid for through grants.

Conway says the idea is to keep people safe because every year tragedy strikes, often when boaters fueled by alcohol, end up in the water without a life jacket.

"We want people to enjoy the waterways," Conway said. "And unfortunately there are times when people don’t act appropriately on the water just like they don’t appropriatley on the roadway. And we wnt to make sure they have the necessary and proper equipment becuase we’ve seen all too well what happens when there aren’t enough life jackets on a boat."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.