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New lake patrol officer ready to ride the waves

Lake Norman boaters may have noticed a new officer patrolling the Lincoln County waters.
Jason Hutchinson took over Jeff Warlick’s lake patrol position six weeks ago after Warlick was promoted to lieutenant.
“I just decided I wanted something different,” said Hutchinson, who had worked for the Lincolnton Police Department since 1999. “I’ve been an avid boater pretty much my entire life. I know the lake, it made sense coming out here.”
As the patrol officer, Hutchinson monitors the lake daily using the Sheriff’s Office boat and two jet skis, leased every year through a program with Westport Marina.
Hutchinson said April 13 is when Lincoln County first got in the water, patrolling. He said traffic has gradually picked up and will be in full swing come Memorial Day.
“My main priority is to patrol the shoreline of Lincoln County and protect the property of homeowners,” Hutchinson said.
Besides himself, Hutchinson said there are about 10-to-15 other officers who come out to help him patrol when needed, especially during the summer, weekends and holidays.
There are a number of things Lincoln County lake patrol officers look for while patrolling:
· Making sure everyone has fire extinguishers
· Wearing life jackets
· Wake violations
· Boat operators who are driving while impaired (the legal limit is the same as driving, .08)
Hutchinson said there haven’t been many violations this season thus far, and has primarily concentrated on introducing himself to residents and educating them about boating safety.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone down here,” he said.
While tickets will be written for violations, Hutchinson said education will continue to be a focal point of lake patrol.
“This is a lake, we are here to have fun, but we are here if (residents) need us,” he said. “If they need us they can call 911, or if they have a marine channel, they can contact us on channel 16.”
May 19 kicked off National Boating Safety Week and Hutchinson said the Coast Guard Auxiliary will be putting on classes on boating safety around the area. The week lasts until May 26, said Hutchinson.
Hutchinson also said he will be doing a lot of boat inspections all season long.
Although he is still in the learning process, Hutchinson said there isn’t much difference between his old patrol job and his new one.
“It’s pretty much the same job, but now I’m in a boat instead of a Crown Vic,” he said.
As an experienced lake-user himself, Hutchinson said he and his wife, Haley, and two kids, Hunter and Kaitlyn, frequent Lake Norman often.
He is looking forward to learning about the entire 60- to-70 mile county shoreline and he is ready to meet the long summer season head-on.
“I bought a good hat and a I got a lot of sunscreen,” he said.
by Mary Williams

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