VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Boating season is here, and COVID-19 has increased the number of people on the water.
News 3 got an exclusive behind the scenes look at how the Virginia Beach Police Marine Unit is getting ready for the season.
Last year, the water was busy because of COVID-19. Master Police Officer Markus Johnson said, “It was definitely the busiest that I've seen in the last 12 years, and I expect it to be just as busy this summer.”
Johnson has had 15 years on the force and 12 with the Marine Unit.
“Just the relief that you see on their faces when you're there to help them and tell them in and the gratitude you get is awesome,” Johnson said.
News 3 met up with police at the Lynnhaven Municipal Marina, and they showed us more of what they do. In one instance, they spotted a 55-gallon trash can floating in the water and picked it up.
The job entails more than you may realize. There are eight people on the Marine Unit; they are certified divers and will get called out to look for evidence.
Officer Johnson said, “Our mission out here is to enforce state laws on the waterways. We conduct search and rescue missions; we assist with the Coast Guard ship escorts for high value assets; we do a lot of those things - we work through accidents, through recreational boat crashes.”
There are nine boats operated by the Virginia Beach Police Department that you will see out on the water.
Police are stressing that their biggest message is to boat responsibly. Alcohol is always a factor when you're on the beaches, so they ask everyone to be responsible boaters and to be aware.
They stress this especially for people bringing a boat out for the first time in the last year.
“Early in the season when people get their boats out and they're sitting in their driveway or in storage over the winter, houses crack, things break, people forget to put both plugs in, and usually the beginning of the season you know [we] will have some cases you know people take on water and whatnot, Johnson said.
If you are a boater, be prepared and be patient as you get ready for a potentially busy season on the water.