Sheriff's patrol starts on lake

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:14

    WEST MILFORD-Passaic County Sheriff officers will step in and take over regular patrol of Greenwood Lake effective July 8. The action comes just weeks after the pullout of the New Jersey State Police Marine Unit which had sporadically patrolled the nine-mile lake's New Jersey side. At a public forum held July 1 at the Lakeside Community Clubhouse, Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale stressed the action isn't a slapped-together response. This will be the pilot program for a newly created Sheriff's Marine Unit that will eventually expand to patrol other recreational waterways and provide anti-terrorist protection for the various reservoirs in the county. "The Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol is going to focus on safety and protecting the environment on the lake," he said. " We're here to protect the lake if someone is going to attack it by environmental means." Asked about the size of the patrol vessel, Speziale said "this will be a fully-equipped police patrol boat operated seven days per week by three sheriff's officers. A hand-held radar unit will be on board. The boat will also be available after hours should a water rescue be needed. He said his department has been negotiating with a local fire company to have keys for use during off-hours. Midge Touw, a lake resident and president of the West Milford Board of Education, said the community has previously been hamstrung in its efforts to perform rescues on the lake. The county will buy the fire department a floating pump so boat or island fires can be fought with a better chance of success. The floating pump and the patrol boat will be purchased and staffed at "no cost to the county." Speziale said monies will come from the county's drug forfeiture fund and summer staffing which will assign officers who would otherwise be underutilized due to cutbacks in courtroom staffing while judges are on vacation. Duty assignments will be rotated to ensure experienced patrol officers are on the lake. He said the concept was first developed two years ago and has been in the planning stages since then. There isn't talk about fundraising through tickets, Speziale stressed. "This is about safety," he said.