PVE's oceangoing patrol assists boaters from Manhattan Beach to San Pedro

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Posted by Max Bottomtime on October 02, 2008 at 09:39:04:

PVE's oceangoing patrol assists boaters from Manhattan Beach to San Pedro
By Mark Muckenfuss Riverside Press-Enterprise
Article Launched: 10/01/2008 10:54:28 PM PDT

The sun is just starting to poke its rays over the beachfront houses in Redondo Beach as Rick Anderson steers his boat out of King Harbor.

Gray morning clouds paw at the hillsides and cliffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the south, where a standing paddle boarder slowly strokes away from the shoreline. Only a handful of boats and kayaks bob within view.

Anderson, 60, has been plying these waters for 11 years as a reserve officer for the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department. He heads California's only oceangoing patrol run by a police department.

"Our chief knew that we had a lot of poaching going on and we had a surfer problem," Anderson says, referring to fights between local and nonlocal surfers. "That's what prompted this whole boat thing in the beginning. (He) called me in and said, `I understand you know something about boats."'

Anderson said the next thing he knew, he was directed to find an appropriate vessel and patrol the local shoreline.

"We're the only boat that operates between Manhattan Beach and San Pedro on a daily patrol basis," the Riverside County resident said. "We're sort of the lonely child here."

Anderson, a retired high school wood- shop teacher, patrols on weekends. He has as many as three other officers on the boat, depending upon how busy he expects things to be.

On this day, Bill Moulton, who's been working with Anderson for six years, is the only other officer on board. They check on fishing permits, illegal harvesting - lobsters in particular - and boating safety. They fall into a search-and-rescue mode when needed and tow disabled boats back to the harbor. They keep an eye on the surfers and also for cars at the bottom of a beachfront cliff that is a frequent spot for suicides.
Anderson says his department works in cooperation with the Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Game and other agencies. Mike McBride, assistant chief with Fish and Game, says his agency appreciates the help.

"Palos Verdes Estates P.D. has a long history of being a fantastic partner with the California Department of Fish and Game," McBride says. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done there on the coastline and they are literally right there."

During the busy summer days, Anderson says, he might contact as many as 100 boaters a day. In the off-season, that drops to about 30. He rarely writes more than two or three citations a day.

And while enforcement is part of the job, he says the patrol is mostly about public relations and education.

He pulls up alongside a boat rigged with fishing poles. Three men and a young boy wearing a life jacket are on deck.

"Morning," Anderson calls out. "Doing any good?"

The boatmen tell him about their fishing plans for the day, which include spearfishing. Anderson reminds them to make sure they have a flag to notify other boaters when a diver is in the water.

"You got some youngsters, huh?" he says. "I love seeing life jackets on kids. Makes my day. Better than Christmas."

It's typical of most of his contacts, and he tries to check with nearly every boat on the water, including a group of paddle boarders. He jokes with them about their marathon journeys to Catalina Island, 26 miles away.

"I could paddle that thing about 6 feet," he tells one of them.

Later he chides a fisherman for not having a paddle in his small outboard. "What happens when the motor doesn't work?" Anderson asked him. "You can't walk back."

Because the reserve officers who operate the patrol are essentially volunteers, Anderson says he figures the annual cost for the patrol is around $3,500, most of which is fuel. The city is getting a bargain, he says.

"The city gets protection of its coastline," Anderson says. "The taxpayers get safety and Fish and Game stuff."

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