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The Special Operations Division is directed by a Division Major.
The Marine Division of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office is a full service division dedicated to providing a safe boating environment to persons using the open waters and waterways of Harrison County. The Marine Division is staffed with Deputies, specially trained in marine law enforcement and underwater dive operations. This division provides services relative to law enforcement, safety, search, rescue and recovery. The Marine Division supplements patrols conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs, U.S. Park Service, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the Mississippi Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The primary goal of the Marine Division is to provide and maintain a well-trained and qualified unit that provides the services required in maintaining public safety upon approximately 500 square miles of navigable waterways located within the authority and responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies patrolling the open waters and rivers of Harrison County are prepared to render assistance or enforcement wherever it is needed, serving its mission to make them as safe as possible for everyone to enjoy. The waterways of Harrison County can be extremely busy at times with approximately 50,000-registered commercial and recreational watercraft.
The Law Enforcement duties of the Marine Division encompass enforcement of Federal and State Laws pertaining to marine vessels, which navigate the waterways of Harrison County.
The Marine Operations Division works hand in hand with U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Park Service and State Marine Patrol in combating the trafficking of illegal drugs. This combined effort helps to reduce, disrupt and deter the flow of drugs entering the United States via waterways of Harrison County.
The Marine Division responds to calls for assistance along with other Federal and State agencies. This combined effort helps to reduce the response time for mariners in need of assistance. Except in the event of an emergency, the Marine Division is prohibited from towing other vessels. In the event of an emergency, the vessel will only be towed to the nearest shore, pier or dock. For non-emergencies, division members will attempt to assist the stranded boater and attempt to contact a friend of the boater or a boating tow service.
A very important part of the Marine Division is its Dive Team. Specially trained Search & Recovery Divers assist in searching for victims of drowning, water related automobile accidents as well as locating submerged evidence for criminal prosecution. Dive team members train once per month in preparation for underwater investigations, accidents, and disasters. Each training day presents a different scenario to prepare the divers for any situation. Dive team members are all volunteers and are selected from all areas within the Sheriff’s Office.
During hurricane and flood seasons, the Marine Division plays an important role in evacuation of residents and patrolling areas of Harrison County which are prone to flooding.
The Marine Division conducts routine safety inspections of vessels and watercraft – on all waterways – including watercraft offered for rent by vendors who operate on the beaches of Harrison County. Deputies check to ensure that sufficient numbers of floatation devices are on board and that the floatation devices are in proper condition. Deputies also check for working fire extinguishers, current flares, and current boating registration.
The increase in popularity of personal watercraft has resulted in an increase in complaints. The most common complaints received by law enforcement are due to reckless or negligent actions by the operators. It should be noted that fines for reckless and/or negligent operation of water vessels are very expensive. Reckless and negligent operation of a vessel shall include, but is not limited to the following examples:
We want everyone to have fun, but also remember to be safe and responsible. It is your duty as a boater to know and observe safe boating rules and practices to prevent collisions, injuries, and death. For everyone’s safety, here are a few basic rules to remember when you are operating a boat or personal watercraft.
A wake is the path of moving waves a boat leaves behind and is a natural product of boating. All boats create wake which will produce undesirable effects. By understanding wakes and what can be done about them, boaters can take a big step towards making the water more relaxing and enjoyable for everyone. Wakes can have an effect on safety, property and wildlife.
Remember: If you have to go slower to eliminate your wake, you must do so. Violation of the slow no wakes rule can result in a fine of up to $500. Please refer to the Mississippi boating regulations for local restrictions on wake.
Chances are, you will have to face a large wake created by someone else during your time on the water. Here are several things you can do to safely navigate through a wake:
Remember: YOU are legally responsible for your wake and the damage or personal injury it causes no matter how large or small the wake. So protect yourself and others by limiting your wake. The cost of repairing someone’s boat or dock or paying their medical bill may far outweigh the inconvenience of slowing down.