In 1949, Essex Police launched a specialist marine division to police the county's waterways and coastline. More than seventy years on and this specialist unit is still preventing crime, catching criminals and protecting the people of Essex.
Today, the unit polices 562 miles of waterways and coastlines from the Thames at Crayford Ness to the River Stour in Manningtree, working closely with partners such as the RNLI, the National Crime Agency, Port of London Authority, Border Force and the Coastguard Agency.
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With the second-longest coastline in the country, there’s a lot to keep our Marine Unit busy.
Their top priority is keeping our marine communities safe on land and in the water – whether that be out at sea, on our rivers and waterways or in the various marinas and moorings around the county.
With our launch, the Alert IV, and Sentinel, a rigid-hulled inflatable boat known as a RHIB and a personal watercraft (more commonly known as a Jetski), our team patrols the coastline all the way from Mistley in north Essex, down past Harwich, Clacton and Southend, and along the Thames to Crayford Ness, just past the Dartford River Crossing.
While we take a great interest in our major ports at Harwich, Tilbury and London Gateway on the Thames, as well as smaller ones like Brightlingsea, the majority of the team’s work focuses on anyone who uses the water along our coast and rivers.
This doesn’t only mean boat-owners but paddle boarders, canoeists and kayakers, kite-surfers and people using personal watercraft, in fact, anyone who uses the water for leisure.
Partnership working is key to ensuring our coastlines and waterways remain safe for everyone and that our waters are not exploited by criminals for illegal activity.
We regularly work alongside our local authority colleagues who look after our waterways. The local council are responsible for the local byelaws and we work with them to make sure that anyone who persistently causes a nuisance to others, or behaves antisocially on the water, are prosecuted.
Border Force are a law enforcement command within the Home Office. They secure the UK border by carrying out immigration and customs controls for people and goods entering the UK.
Through initiatives such as Project Kraken and the sharing of information and marine resources like boats, equipment and specially trained police officers, we work with Border Force colleagues to deter criminal activity on the water and respond to reports of suspicious activity.
While working with other organisations is key in keeping people safe and catching criminals, the relationship we have with our marine communities is equally as important. The community are our eyes and ears, they know what is usual activity and unusual behaviour.
By listening to the people who live and work on and by our waterways and coastlines, we can better understand the issues causing them concerns and take action to resolve these problems. Whether it's concerns around the theft of marine equipment, people behaving antisocially on the water or someone acting suspiciously, we can work together to ensure people remain safe and those who cause harm to our communities are held accountable for their actions.