Friday, August 9, 2013

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Week 10

ProRangers and Followers,

This past week at Cape Hatteras I returned to the Law Enforcement Division, where I will remain for the final few weeks of the summer. It feels as through I just arrived here on the Outer Banks, and it is almost time to return to Pennsylvania. During my past week with LE, I was able to work with several different Rangers, which allowed me to see different policing styles.

On my first day back, I returned to working alongside my supervisor, Ranger Mark Krebs. This week, I was scheduled with the night shift Rangers so that I could gain more experience working in a nighttime environment. Soon after coming on duty, Ranger Krebs and I were patrolling the Ramp 30 beach area, when we observed a vehicle on the beach operating without a visible Off-Road Vehicle Permit. Ranger Krebs initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle. While approaching the vehicle, we noted an open container of alcohol resting in the dash board cup holder. Ranger Krebs questioned the vehicle occupants, and the passenger of the vehicle claimed the beverage. Next, Ranger Krebs received all of the occupants Drivers Licenses, and continued his investigation. Upon further inspection (with consent from the driver) Ranger Krebs observed a second open alcoholic container. This container was claimed by the second passenger of the vehicle. Prior to issuing any citations, Ranger Krebs conducted a Preliminary Breath Test on the driver of the vehicle, who was exhibiting signs of impairment. The test reading was below the legal limit, however, the driver was under the legal drinking age. In turn, his BAC was still too high to legally operate a vehicle.

After reviewing the State and Federal statutes, Ranger Krebs decided to write a citation to each of the vehicle occupants, two for open containers in a vehicle, and one for minor in possession of alcohol. The underage driver of the vehicle was instructed not to drive until his BAC was .00, and a suitable driver was found among the passengers. This incident is a good example of a minor violation (permit not in view) that developed into an investigation for alcohol violations. It is also an example of using discretion and logic to decide what tickets to write and what course of action is appropriate.

During the remainder of the week, I was fortunate to work with another experienced LE Ranger. On our first shift, the Ranger and I observed an ice cream truck operating inside the park boundary. After catching up to the vehicle  we decided to initiate a traffic stop based on the driving behavior of the vehicle as it had crossed the center line several times. After stopping the vehicle, the Ranger received a phone call from the Interpretation staff confirming that the ice cream truck was actively selling ice cream in the park. During our following investigation, we discovered that the driver of the vehicle had a valid drivers licence, but was not currently carrying it in the vehicle. As a result, we had to find the drivers information through the state database, by name and date of birth. After the information returned with no issues, we decided to issue a written warning for Business Operations in the park without a Permit. This regulation is in place in order to protect the park visitors and other business from unethical business operations and to make sure that all concessionaires follow specific guidelines.

As with any night shift, our duties for the week included checking the campgrounds, beaches, and the visitor center area for any signs of violations. In turn, we handled several calls for illegal campfires, pyrotechnics on the beach, and night driving violations. For many of these incidents, the violators lack the knowledge of park rules and regulations, and have not taken the time to review the terms of their ORV and beach fire permits. In turn, these violations are often as much about education as they are about enforcement through citations. As Law Enforcement Officers, Rangers have discretion to issue a citation, written warning, or verbal warning based on the nature of the violation. Sometimes, a warning coupled with education about the violation can be just as effective as a citation.Once a park visitor understands the reasoning behind a regulation, they are more likely to follow it in the future.  Still, it is necessary to be willing to write a citation when one is warranted. 

Next week I will be returning to the early shift, as I continue my time here at Cape Hatteras.

Thank you for your support of the ProRanger Program.

Jay Copper

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