The Palm Beach Police Department's new boat, a 35-foot Island Runner, patrols the Intracoastal Waterway.
A new wave in law enforcement and crime prevention swept the island this season, as Palm Beach Crime Watch launched Marine Crime Watch and the Police Department christened a high-speed patrol boat, the newest enhancement to its crime-fighting arsenal.
Palm Beach philanthropist Leo Albert and his wife, Anne, donated $150,000 for the 35-foot Island Runner. It replaces the department's 25-foot fishing boat.
The new vessel can reach speeds of 60 mph, propelled by two supercharged Mercury outboard engines totaling 550 horsepower.
Unlike the fishing boat, which bumped along over waves, the Island Runner's specially designed hull cuts through them.
Palm Beach Police Marine One is anchored at the town's Brazilian Docks, under the control of the department's Marine Patrol Officers Mick Keehan and Tom Machate. Its primary use is waterway patrol, both on the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.
The officer's duties also include enforcing no-wake zones, doing boat-safety inspections, checking boat registrations, watching for drug smuggling and illegal immigration, and performing water rescues.
Albert, an alumnus of the Palm Beach Police Academy who serves on the board of Crime Watch, said he was largely motivated by terrorism concerns, and that he wanted to provide additional security for Palm Beach residents.
Captain Mike Galvin said it is reasonable for police and residents to think in terms of terrorism because of the town's high-profile population.
The donation was not the first gift by Albert to the police department. In 1998, he donated $10,000 for Beretta pistols.
The Palm Beach Police Department hoisted its new Marine Crime Watch flag on Feb. 24 during a Crime Watch Week ceremony at the Town Docks.
Police designed the program to deter theft, vandalism and overall criminal activity in the marine community.
Marine Crime Watch members were encouraged to take part on land by keeping an eye out from waterfront residences.
From left, Town Council member Richard Kleid, police officer Mick Keehan, Leo Albert, Town Manager Peter Ewell and officer Tom Macate get a ride on the boat Friday morning after its christening. The vessel is named Palm Beach Police Marine One.
Most waterway crime involves theft of fishing gear and electronics from boats, police said. In some cases, small boats and personal watercraft are stolen.
After the ceremony, interest in Marine Crime Watch continued to grow. About 30 residents attended a two-hour orientation and training session April 14.
They received instruction from police on observing and reporting suspicious activity on Palm Beach docks and along waterways. To help the public, police developed the acronym, ORCA-Observe, Report Criminal Activity. They also issued a Marine Crime Watch handbook.
Marine Crime Watch operates under the same principles as Crime Watch.
Just as homeowners and condominium residents are encouraged to know their neighbors and report anything out of the ordinary to police, boaters who use local docks were encouraged during training to do the same.
"If you see someone who doesn't seem to belong there, make eye contact with them so they knoe they've been seen," Crime Prevention Officer Chad Nelson told Marine Crime Watch members. "Report any suspicious people to the police department."
The marine component also focuses on crime-prevention tips, including locking outside boat hatches and doors and securing any valuables on board.
Major Michael Mason said professional criminals who might use small boats to get onto the island and commit land-based burglaries and other crimes pose a threat to Palm Beachers. The department's new partnership with the marine community can prevent that from happening, he said.
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