LAKE GASTON, N.C. — Lake Gaston has become a magnet for people who enjoy or want to live on the water. With its growing popularity comes a growing need for security. With so much water to patrol, local law enforcement is missing just one critical weapon -- boats.
"It's my jurisdiction to enforce the laws anywhere in the county whether it's on the water or on the land or in the air or whatever," Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams said.
Williams gets some help from the State Division of Wildlife in enforcing fishing and boating laws, but not with property theft crimes where vandals come in by boat.
Roland Beauchaine said people tried to rob his boathouse while he was inside. He said he was able to chase them off and called for help.
"I called the conservation people, and they said once they hit the land, they don't have any jurisdiction anymore and you call the sheriff," Beauchaine said. "Well, the sheriff says if you call me and they are on the boat, there's not much I can do about it."
"We have to rent a boat, call wildlife for assistance. [It] might be two or three hours," Williams said.
On the lake, the state property lines and county boundary lines are invisible, but the presence of a patrol boat could make the difference in preventing crime. Of the five counties surrounding the lake, only Northampton County has a patrol boat.
Instead of buying the sheriff a boat, Warren County commissioners want to request additional support from North Carolina's Wildlife Enforcement division.