Due to numerous complaints about illegal activity on the Spring River, wildlife officers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission have been conducting extensive boating safety checks on the river.
Earlier this month, an operation netted a total of 17 boating violations and 28 criminal violations during the safety check.
The criminal violations involved possession of a controlled substance and minor in possession of alcohol.
AGFC wildlife officer Capt. Gary Mullins said the agency's main concern was to encourage boating safety compliance, they recognized the stop and check would likely reveal additional violations, including violations of criminal code.
"Various field operations have been conducted on the Spring River in recent years; however, these operations involved wildlife officers working the river both overtly and covertly from vessels and on foot. One drawback to this approach was it didn't allow officers to inspect all river goers for regulations compliance," Mullins said. "In fact, many river-goers didn't even realize that wildlife officers were patrolling the river. Due to the ongoing problems associated with the river, the most visible of which are the criminal violations, a new approach was taken which consisted of a high visibility boating safety checkpoint," he added.
The operation involved 16 wildlife officers including uniformed teams posted at the initial checkpoint in the river, uniformed officers stationed on the river bank for observations, communications and citations, and two non-uniformed officers in kayaks up river from the checkpoint for surveillance.
Two additional uniformed officers were in charge of photography and video during the checkpoint.
The operation occurred between 11a.m. and 4 p.m. and several hundred people passed through the checkpoint.
Mullins said he felt like the boating safety check was very successful. "It provided an opportunity for nearly everyone floating the river to recognize wildlife officers are not only working the area but concerned about safety issues as well as any illegal activity taking place on Spring River. Numerous positive comments were received from the public concerning the checkpoint," Mullins said.
Wildlife officers intend to continue enforcement saturations in an effort to curb illegal activity on the Spring River.
"Some weekends are not too bad, but occasionally we get a crowd that is just out of control. There is a lot of blame to go around on this but the easiest thing we can do is get the alcohol out of the hands of minors and see what kind of impact that has," Mullins explained.