Rowan County Sheriff’s Office restructures lake patrol

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 2, 2019

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office has restructured its Water Patrol Division and will provide seasonal coverage and enforcement on High Rock Lake.

“High Rock Lake is the second-largest lake in North Carolina. By partnering with Cube Hydro Carolinas, we have the opportunity to provide a quality service to the lake community,” said Sheriff Kevin Auten.

Retired Patrol Lt. Neal Goodman has been named lake patrol commander. Retired Patrol Lt. Gene Smitley, Special Deputy Sgt. John Sharp and Detective Nathaniel Phillips will round out the team.

The unit will also rely on school resource officers during the summer as well as special deputies as needed for additional manpower, said Capt. Tim Wyrick.

“Special deputies volunteer their time to patrol the county and are ready to respond when the people of Rowan County need assistance,” Wyrick said.

“I think we have the right group of officers in place to address the water lake complaints,” Auten said. “These officers have a wealth of experience and knowledge and can deal with most any law enforcement on a patrol level.”

The Water Patrol Division is responsible for policing and enforcing state laws on lake activity from May through September. The Lake Patrol Unit will work with the N.C. Wildlife Service. The unit is funded by Cube Hydro Carolinas.

Lake patrol officers will focus on violations of laws on drugs and alcohol; boating while intoxicated; safety equipment; wake zones; littering; boat registration; and careless and reckless boating.

“We want to not just enforce laws but to educate boaters and other watercraft operators on safety issues and relieve some of the tensions between recreational goers and those that live on the lake,” Auten said.

The water patrol will filter complaints and be able to address problem areas, monitor boat traffic and conduct surveillance on boat access areas as a way to reduce vehicle break-ins and damage.

Wyrick said the unit will assist other emergency responders as needed in emergency situations.

Auten said the boat patrol will continue to partner with N.C. Wildlife to dea with the ongoing issue of bridge jumpers.

Auten wants to add an automated external defibrillator to the patrol boat’s emergency equipment.

“We want to be prepared for all types of emergencies on the water. If officers are the first to respond and locate a victim in need, we want them to have the right equipment to give them the best chance to make a difference,” he said.

During the off-season, lake patrol officers will receive additional training to better prepare them for duties on the water.