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Sheriff's Office to patrol Erie Canal ; Receives $30,000 from state as grant

The Niagara County Sheriff's Office has received a $30,000 state grant to fund police patrols on the Erie Canal this summer.

R.W. Groneman, public information officer for the State Canal Corp., said the agency passed out a total of $188,000 last month to all counties that contain canals to pay for patrols.

Thomas Beatty, chief deputy at the Sheriff's Office, said all the canal patrols will be done as overtime for the deputies involved, and the $30,000 will cover that.

He said the department has only eight deputies who are licensed marine operators, and they will be the only employees able to work on the boats.

The Sheriff's Office has a fleet of five boats, normally docked at Youngstown, Wilson and North Tonawanda.

Beatty said one is light enough to be quickly hauled on a trailer to a site east of Lockport to be launched without having to take time going through the canal locks at Lockport.

The canal patrols won't occur every day. "We'll focus on weekends, holidays, special events," Beatty said.

The sheriff's offices in Erie, Seneca, Oneida and Albany counties also received $30,000 grants. Monroe County received $28,000 and Cayuga County $10,000.

Beatty said the Canal Corp. used to pay the State Police to handle canal cases. Only six troopers in Troop T, the Thruway patrol division of the State Police, were available for calls on canal waters, he said.

"They just responded to emergencies," Beatty said. By paying counties for more regular patrols, the Canal Corp. will "get more bang for their buck," he commented.

Canal Corp. Director Brian U. Stratton said, "These community-based grants will ensure that our waterways are patrolled by departments with the training, experience and local knowledge necessary to fill this critical need."

The reimbursement-based grants will fund up to 75 percent of the cost of local marine safety patrol operations on waterways that are part of or contiguous to the 524-mile-long state canal system, Groneman said.