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By Land And By 'Sea,' Expect Extra Police Patrols This Weekend

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Indiana DNR
'Operation Dry Water' will increase law enforcement presence on public waters this weekend. This Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) program also includes cooperating law enforcement agencies which will look for unsafe behavior such as drinking while boating.

DNR increasing patrols on waterways; police looking for intoxication and unclicked seat belts

Whether driving or boating, there will be extra police out this July 4th weekend.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and cooperating agencies like sheriff’s offices will have additional waterway patrols July 2 through July 4. They’ll be looking for signs of intoxication and drug use.

It’s called “Operation Dry Water” and it’s similar to the stepped-up police patrols during busier drinking and driving holidays.

DNR Capt. Jet Quillen says they’re not out there trying to spoil anyone’s fun.

“We really want to educate the public on the dangers of operating while intoxicated,” he said. “Just like you wouldn't get behind the wheel of your car and drive while you're intoxicated. Obviously, we wouldn't want you getting behind the wheel of a boat. So we're looking for really just any signs of impairment or anything like that.”

He said they’ll work with the U.S. Coast Guard and Sheriff’s offices, and have about 100 of their own officers on public waterways. These include rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

Typically patrols will make actual contact with thousands of boaters over the weekend, but Quillen says arrests and accidents have been declining in recent years.

“So I think the message is getting out there, and we do see a lot of new boaters on the waterways, they might not be familiar with the laws,” Quillen said. “That's why it's so important to get the education portion of this, this campaign out there that we're not looking to ruin anybody's fun. We just want to ensure everybody's doing everything in a safe way.”

There were 19 arrests for boating while intoxicated in 2021 and 33 in 2020.

Quillen says boat passengers who are drinking need to remember to be safe and hydrated in the sun.

The DNR has been placing additional boat patrols on public waters for the Independence Day holiday since 2009.

On dry land, the bulked-up road patrols have no unified or catchy name, but there will be extra officers patrolling in Henderson, Kentucky.

“We look for telltale signs of a possibly impaired driver such as swerving into lanes, failure to signal, unable to come to a complete stop, running through red lights," Ofc. Robert Gipson of the Henderson Police Department said. "Sometimes they're pretty subtle. Sometimes they're exaggerated, depending on how intoxicated the driver can be.”

He said they use grants to fund the extra shifts, which include looking for drivers and passengers not wearing a seatbelt. Gipson said they will also have officers preparing to respond to reports of illegal fireworks.

He expects an uptick in traffic and people gathering this weekend.

"I think that COVID has pretty much caused a lot of people to stay home the last couple of years," Gipson said. "With the bans being lifted, the mask mandates being lifted, I believe you're going to see (gatherings) increase because people are going to want that. humans in general want that relationship, that connection with people."

Sgt. Anna Gray of the Evansville Police Department also expects it to busy in the city — especially on the evening of July 4 for the annual fireworks display over the Ohio River which draws thousands to downtown Evansville.

Gray said there will be several officers assigned to the downtown area that night.

"We have officers who are dedicated to just doing the traffic details downtown, making sure that traffic is flowing okay. And then we have officers just kind of throughout the crowd — just basically there for extra patrol or if someone you know needs help, because kids get lost. Things of that nature."

The EPD will also have extra patrols for drunk driving, and regular motor patrols for crashes and noise complaints.

It’s been exactly two years since ‘Hands-Free Indiana’ was enacted. This makes driving while holding your cell phone a moving violation, for which you’ll be ticketed.

With heavy traffic expected this weekend, the Indiana State Police (ISP) will be out looking for drivers holding cell phones.

Sgt.Todd Ringle with the ISP said there are distracted driving crashes every day.

“We're still stopping people that are holding their phone, and they're talking through their speaker. And I think you're getting confused. You can talk through your speaker on your cell phone, but you cannot be holding your phone, you can mount it on a bracket, or you can have it on your console.”

Ringle says there were 1,500 crashes last fourth of July across the state, with 400 injuries.

"We need every motorist to do their part — put their phones down and just drive," Ringle said.

He says there will be 150 extra troopers also looking for drunk and aggressive driving, and speeding.

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Tim Jagielo
An Evansville Police Department cruiser parked downtown Evansville.