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Deputies step up Delta presence
sheriff boat
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office has been using a new vessel as part of its boating safety unit – show here leading the group of boats that patrol the San Joaquin River Delta – that was received earlier this summer. The $450,000 watercraft was paid for by a Port Security Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Association.

With its twin motors and its low profile, the new SAFE boat being operated by the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office can travel at more than 50 miles per hour and coast through water only a few feet deep.

And at $450,000 – heavily outfitted with top-of-the-line electronics and motors that allow it to cover long distances in shorts periods of time – it’s far more than just a shiny new toy for the boating safety unit to use when patrolling the more than 700 miles of rivers and waterways that fall into the county’s jurisdiction.

Since the start of this summer the agency has been operating the boat that was funded by a Port Security Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Associating – adding to the tools at the disposal of the specialized unit tasked with keeping boaters safe when recreating on the Delta.

And according to San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department PIO Alan Sanchez, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It’s been out on the water for a couple of months, and it has been a busy couple of months for us,” said Sanchez. “I don’t know if it’s because of COVID and people are looking to stay closer to home but still get outdoors, but we’ve seen a large number of people out on the Delta this summer.”

Typically, the summer boating season runs through the start of the school year in the fall and begins to taper off around Labor Day, but Sanchez believes that those constraints may be off with the unique dynamics that are facing the county today. With the majority of public schools opening with distance learning, the hard-and-fast start time to the school year is different this year and whether that coincides with more people out on the water remains to be seen.

And the new SAFE boat – an acronym that stands for secure all-around flotation equipment – provides an incredibly fast and stable watercraft that allows deputies to cover long distances in case of emergencies and even traverse shallow waters when the twin motors, which cost around $25,000 each, are pulled up.

Funding for the boats, which is provided by the Federal government, is allocated to agencies that have vital infrastructure to protect, and with the Stockton Deep Water Channel and the Port of Stockton serving as a potential terrorist target, the agency was able to qualify for the funding necessary to secure the vessel that are typically found in larger cities and more populated areas.

The same company that built and outfitted the boat for the sheriff’s office also creates them for the United States Navy which uses them all over the world.

While the summer boating season may be slowing down, those that recreate on the Delta can expect to see the new vessel and the presence of the deputies on waterways for the rest of the year – the unit patrols the hundreds of miles of open river and narrow channels 365 days a year.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.