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Published on Sep 1, 2010
The Essex Police Marine Unit patrols the county's waterways 365 days a year come rain or shine. But as unpredictable as the weather is what the team, based at Burnham on Crouch, could be called to deal with on any given day. As operational police officers, Sgt Simon Lofting and his crew have to be prepared to deal with any number of eventualities along the county's 350 mile coastline. Sgt Lofting said: "The marine unit deals with the same crimes the regular police officer on land deals with - there are thefts, burglaries and violent incidents on the water just as there are on land." The crew, which includes eight Pcs, one Dc and two PCSOs, could find themselves called upon to search for missing people, tow a wartime bomb to safety, assist with a rescue at sea or police a big event. The team also work closely with the UK Border Agency to stop cigarette, drug and people smugglers in their tracks and regularly patrol the River Thames in anti-terror operations. The river sees the passage of 22,000 shipping movements every year. To help the unit combat crime on the county's waterways, they have an impressive fleet at their disposal including two 24 foot inflatable boats (RHIBS) capable of speeds up to 70 miles per hour, a 22ft RHIB and a patrol Launch Alert IV. The Alert, the largest of the unit's fleet, has specialist search and rescue equipment on board and is an all weather vessel able to command and control any waterborne incident. The latest additions to the fleet are two jet skis, known as personal water craft. As well as helping officers move along the water quickly, they allow them to get into shallow water to help catch people speeding and are safe to use around swimmers in busy tourist spots. But life on the water isn't without its challenges. The marine unit can be called upon to help recover bodies and investigate fatal crashes on the water, something which never gets easier for the officers involved.