By Petty Officer 3rd Class Carmen Caver
Nestled along Philadelphia’s waterfront, Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay is charged with providing maritime safety, security, and environmental protection of the Delaware River and the Tri-State area’s bustling waterways.
The Philadelphia-based Coast Guard sector’s area of responsibility includes the busy commercial ports of Philadelphia and Wilmington, and the sector’s coastal subunits who members stand watch up to 230-miles from the New Jersey and Delaware coastlines.
Every day, Coast Guard members in the City of Brotherly Love stand ready to protect the public by responding to distress calls from boaters, ensuring the safety and lawful operation of commercial vessels, and standing watch to respond to illegal or unsafe activity on the water.
In a recent, remarkable display of vigilance, Coast Guard Station Philadelphia, a subunit of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay, showcased their commitment to maritime security when they successfully recovered a stolen vessel, detained the suspect, and ensured the safety of all parties involved.
The incident unfolded when a good Samaritan contacted the Philadelphia Police Department and Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay watchstanders to report the theft of a recreational vessel.
Coast Guard Station Philadelphia personnel sprang into action, redirecting a 29-foot Response Boat-Small (RBS) that was already underway on patrol, to respond to the location of the reported incident. The RBS crew quickly diverted course, located the subject, and proceeded to conduct a boarding.
Boardings are most commonly performed to check for compliance of safety standards and enforcement of fishing regulations but are also used to cease illegal operations.
When responding to a law enforcement incident, Coast Guard boarding team members rely on their extensive training in defensive tactics techniques, use of force, and identification of possible violations of U.S. law, and personal searches.
During this incident, in addition to apprehending the suspect for stealing the vessel, the Coast Guard boarding team made a startling discovery aboard - a stolen, concealed firearm.
The adeptness of the boarding team in both securing the suspect and de-escalating the situation was nothing short of commendable.
“I want to highlight the excellent work that the boarding team did while getting on the vessel and taking hold of the situation,” expressed Capt. Kate Higgins-Bloom, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay. “We want people to understand that the water is a public environment that asks for both respect and responsible behavior.”
Philadelphia Police Department members, who arrived on scene shortly after the Coast Guard team apprehended the suspect, took custody of the suspect and transported him back to shore.
After the hand-off, the Coast Guard boat crew safely towed the recovered vessel back to the marina it was stolen from.
This seamless collaboration between the Coast Guard and local responders stamps the importance of collaboration in training and teamwork required to maintain safe and secure waterways.
“Cases like this reveal that bridging the strengths of different organizations can complete our journey towards a common goal: keeping Philadelphia’s waterways safe,” said Steven Mercado of the Philadelphia Police Department.
As the sun sets over the Delaware River each day, the Coast Guard remains a constant beacon of safety and security. Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay continues to stand the watch and proudly serve a city that embodies resilience, protection, and an unfailing spirit.