View Full Version : Coast Guard communication with the Police in Boston?

07-03-2016, 03:09 AM
I need some help, because I have no idea how these things work. And I want to write out the technical details correctly.

The situation in my story: My character thinks that a young woman went to meet a young man on one of the Boston Harbor Islands. However, she does not know which island, and since there are several islands, she decides to question the authorities (the local police) if there have been any reports of a young woman that meet her description.

My questions: Is there some kind of coast guard for the Harbor Islands? Or for the waterfront along South Boston, particularly the Carson/M Beach area? If so, would the coast guard share any reports of criminal/suspicious incidents to the local police? How does that work? Does the coast guard directly contact the local police in the event of such incidents?

I don't know whether or not the coast guard would send criminal/incident reports to the local police, or under what circumstances the coast guard would communicate with the police, and that is what I need to know in order to write my next scene.

I need to figure out whether my character goes to question the police and then the coast guard, or whether she would only question the police if they also received any such reports from the coast guard.

Thank you to anyone who can provide any information.

07-03-2016, 05:04 AM
Boston Harbor, and the islands within, are patrolled by the Boston City Police, Massachusetts State Police, the US Coast Guard, MassPort, ICE, and the DCR. I've probably missed a couple. Jurisdiction lines are a bit confusing, but several of the islands are under the DCR. MassPort will make your life miserable if you wander too close to Logan. Every so often, there will be a power struggle on who gets to do what, but usually this works fairly well.

I assume you're talking about an underage girl in a statutory rape type situation. You may be meeting the requirements of an Amber alert.

Bottom line in that type of situation if your character went up to any Boston police officer, your character would be taken to the nearest district office. If she's in Southie, that would be District C-6 on West Broadway. There the details of the situation would be discovered from her and a response decided upon. Understand that the response would vary with weather conditions and time of year.

Stating the obvious, to get to the islands you either take a ferry or own or steal a boat. The outer islands can be reached by kayak, but you really need some experience and wouldn't want to do it in bad weather. Currents and mud flats are major problems in Boston Harbor. The ferries (I don't know how many are doing this) can be contacted by VHF radio and checked easily. Islands that have facilities are also connected by VHF radio and often telephone, and again can be checked easily. Boats could come out of one of the marinas in the area, but these usually keep some track of boats in and out. There are only a very limited amount of places you can launch a boat from a trailer, and are easily checked. Kayaks can be launched easily from Carson Beach.

Many of the islands don't allow humans, and several of the others have no permanent facilities. The Coast Guard is based in Boston and has both helicopters and boats available. The Boston Harbor Patrol (Boston Police) have access to the Boston Police Helicopter and a couple of boats. A check of the islands by helicopter could be done in a couple of hours. Depending upon the situation, an Amber alert can be issued over VHF radio channel 16, which is monitored by most sailors.

There are also rangers with DCR at Castle Island who could contact police.

It really doesn't matter who your character contacts first. It would probably end up with either detectives from Boston PD or Massachusetts State Police being who your character is working with, but all resources would be used to investigate the situation. Resources could be limited if there is another incident going on at the same time.

Personally, much as I like the Boston Harbor islands, I'd go for one of the islands off the north shore area of Massachusetts. My personal favorite for this story would be Children's Island about a 1.5 miles off of Marblehead. It has buildings and is used as a camp in the summer, but otherwise is fairly deserted. Although the Coast Guard is close by at Salem, there's a lot less resources available here.

Jim Clark-Dawe

10-23-2016, 05:13 AM
JClarkeDawe's reply was wonderful. I only have a few minor items to add and I defer to his post for first-person groundtruthing. Nothing I add below contravenes what he stated.

I can only tell you the situation in New York City: US Coast Guard craft are not part of the NYC 911 dispatching system. And I can tell you also: Boston has the same 911 dispatching system as NYC. Make of that what you will.

But when there is a boater in trouble either in the waters of NYC (or on an island considered part of NYC), a fire rescue vessel is always sent. NYC responders always take priority over the feds.

The Coast Guard handles the waters *outside* the municipal-regulated waters of bays, channels, and harbors.

In New York, one other oddity. Police launches and fireboats are slowly--not completely there yet--but only slowly acquiring the same dispatch capability that ground vehicles enjoy. Its surprising but no, they're still not there yet. They do not yet have data terminals, only radios; and all information is communicated verbally via their dispatcher.