Because the geography of the Florida Keys includes many square miles of water, Sheriff's deputies patrol the near-shore waters of the Keys by boat and by personal watercraft. Patrolling by water is a necessary part of Keys law enforcement. The Sheriff's Office Marine Unit works regularly with both state and federal agencies to make sure the boating public is complying with all safety and environmental regulations on the waters of the Florida Keys.

There are currently seven boats assigned to various areas of the Keys, including two in the lower Keys, one in Marathon, two in the Village of Islamorada and two in the Tavernier to Key Largo area of the upper Keys. All of the boats were purchased using forfeiture funds - money derived from seizures made during the course of criminal investigations. The Sheriff's Office also uses Yamaha Waverunners, donated by Riva Yamaha and Key Largo Riva South. The watercraft are used for a variety of purposes, including search and rescue, boating safety programs, crime prevention patrols in county residential neighborhoods and assisting the Sheriff's Office Dive Team.

The Marine Enforcement Unit’s number one goal is the prevention of crime. By patrolling area canals and along waterfront properties, officers can get a view of private property that is simply not visible from a patrol car. For instance, a Marine Enforcement Deputy might observe fishing or diving equipment left out on a dock, or visible inside a boat pulled up behind a house – a prime target for thieves. The deputy can stop and educate the property owner on how to better secure their property so it won’t be stolen.

The Marine Enforcement Unit also regularly performs vessel stops in area waters, checking boats for proper safety equipment, and checking to make sure the boater's catch is legal. Divers are reminded about the importance of Diver Down flags, and citations can be issued for various infractions as well.

Overall, with little cost to the community or the Sheriff’s Office the Sheriff's Marine Enforcement Unit has been able to enhance and expand patrol services in the County. The patrol has also given participating officers a new outlook on the possibilities of policing.

Marine Unit photo galleries