Key Biscayne

Police: No major problems on the water over Labor Day weekend

A multi-agency law-enforcement push over the Labor Day holiday weekend to keep drunk skippers off the water led to a “smaller contingent of hard-core partyers,” Key Biscayne Police Chief Charles Press said Tuesday.

“Overall we had a very successful weekend,” said Press, who is also the president of the Miami-Dade Chiefs of Police Association. “There weren’t as many boaters in the area as we have had in the past.”

Federal, state, county and municipal law-enforcement agencies teamed up over the long weekend to educate boaters and enforce laws in the Mashta Flats near Key Biscayne, the Stiltsville flats and at Elliott Key, which is in Biscayne National Park.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced the multi-agency task force last week after several high-profile accidents left at least seven dead, including a horrific three-boat crash on the Fourth of July in which four people died and seven were injured.

Press said he hopes the Labor Day blitz is the first of what will be many more such operations. Each month, Press said, the group will target a different area.

“Partying on the water has become an every-weekend phenomenon,” he said. The next police operation is planned for the Columbus Day Weekend in October.

While the number of Labor Day weekend arrests was not available Tuesday, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino said about six people were arrested on charges including BUI — boating under the influence. But Pino stressed the operation was as much about education as about arresting people.

“This is not something we are going to be able to fix overnight,” Pino said. “But if we can stop at least one person from operating a boat while under the influence, we have done our job.”

Miami Fire Capt. Ignatius Carroll said Tuesday that city fire boats did not have to respond to boat or personal watercraft accidents over the holiday. One person on the water was taken to a hospital because of cuts to a foot, Carroll said..

“The large law enforcement presence definitely sent the message that there is a zero-tolerance for people being irresponsible,” Carroll said.