By the end of August, the number of arrests for boating while intoxicated, or BWI, on the East End this summer climbed to 12—well above the seven posted last year, according to East Hampton Town Chief Harbormaster Ed Michels.
The nearly doubled figure can largely be attributed to the East End Marine Task Force, which consists of 18 state, county, town, and village agencies, including East Hampton, Southampton, Southold, Riverhead and Shelter Island towns, and Sag Harbor Village, said Mr. Michels. The agencies work together to create daylong BWI checkpoints on the water, similar to the DWI checkpoints police set up on highways.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said of the increased numbers. “We’ve never had that many.”
This year, the East End Task Force stopped a total of 196 boats in July and 210 boats in August, leading to six arrests solely from the checkpoints. “The other six arrests [throughout the year] were from routine stuff,” said Mr. Michels.
While six arrests after stopping a total of 406 boats during the checkpoints might seem like a low number, especially in comparison to the number of DWI arrests, it is important to recognize the differences with BWIs, he pointed out.
“It’s a totally different world with cars,” he said. “It’s a lot more time-consuming and a lot more effort to stop a boat. Checkpoints are harder than on land, because everything is moving. Clearly, it’s different on the water.”
Even if arrests aren’t made, said Mr. Michels, the checkpoints also serve as a deterrent for the public. “There’s an educational side of this too,” he said. “There’s the awareness portion of it, which I think has been a really successful deterrent.”