EASTHAMPTON, Mass (WWLP) – 22News went on a ridealong with the Easthampton Police Department’s Marine Unit on the Connecticut River this morning, ahead of a busy holiday weekend.
Connecticut River Task Force
Easthampton police are a part of the Connecticut River Task Force along with Hadley, South Hadley, Northampton, and Chicopee police.
“There became such a need for it, esp after the past few years, we came out here to crack down on some of the problems and assist the public in general,” Easthampton Police Officer Andrew Beaulieu said.
The task force also includes state and federal agencies like Massachusetts Environmental Police, the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Officer Beaulieu told 22News they deal with the same issues on the water as they do on land.
“We’re dealing with boating accidents, broken down boats, traffic stops, and even regular criminal activity we see on the mainland,” Officer Beaulieu explained. “We’ve had reports of drug dealing and alcohol use to excess that’s causing issues like fights breaking out.”
The task force was only formed two years ago. Chief Alberti and Officer Beaulieu told 22News the public has been receptive to the increased police presence on the water.
“As we’re driving by boats and people on the beaches, their waving, they’re smiling they’re clapping, they’re happy,” Officer Beaulieu said. “Our main goal out here is safety we want to make sure everyone is safe, everyone is having a fun time.”
Easthampton Police Department’s Boat
Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti told 22News the department purchased their patrol boat using drug forfeiture money. That money came from cases Easthampton police worked on with their federal and state partners.
“Over the years they seized properties and monies that were directly related to drug distribution,” Alberti said. “And those monies come back to the police department and can only be used in specific ways under federal guidelines.”
The police boat was formerly a part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s fleet.
“It made sense for us, we had the funding source to purchase this boat and become a force multiplier for our task force, Alberti said. “So now we can have one or two boats out here on any given weekend to assist, search and rescue, and to make the river safe.”
Inside the boat, you’ll find everything that’s in a police cruiser: a LIDAR speed gun, first aid kit, an AED, and radios. The Marine Patrol Unit also carries extra life jackets, dock lines, and bumpers.
On the ridealong Thursday we had a special guest: K9 Gino! It was his first time working on the boat. Officer Beaulieu said Gino could also be an asset out on the water.
“He’s certified in patrol and narcotics, we have had our fair share of narcotics complaints out here between drug dealing and drug use. So if we had to get off to go to one of the beaches or board a boat because of a report of drug activity, he could be beneficial in that sense.”
Gino could also help with crowd control if any fights were to break out on the beaches by acting as a patrol officer.
In the case of an emergency on the water, call 911. The Connecticut Task Force boats also have marine radios on board if you need to call in an emergency.
If you have a concern that is not an emergency, Officer Beaulieu said you can always call the Easthampton Police Department at 413-527-1212 or any local departments.
Officer Beaulieu also reminds boaters to:
- Have enough life vests for everyone on your boat, don’t have to be worn but be accessible
- Have two forms of safety equipment: flares, whistles, strobe lights, etc.
- Drive safely and sober
Read more on boating safety:
- Police: Drinking and boating don’t mix
- Connecticut River Task Force to help keep boaters, swimmers safe on July 4