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Deputies focus on Ottertail & Lake Patrols

Underage tubers caught drinking on the Ottertail River can expect zero tolerance from Becker County deputies over the July 4 holiday.

"The Nightcap traffic enforcement program started last weekend and goes through the coming weekend," Sheriff Tim Gordon said Monday. "It's an exclusive enforcement patrol specifically designed for the river."

Law enforcement is bracing for a lot of visitors looking to cool off during the hot weather.

Gordon said those tubing on the river need to make sure they have a sober driver with them or use shuttle services or the DL Taxi service.

The campaign is aimed at reducing the number of drinking and driving incidents.

Underage drinkers should not assume they are safe to drink on the river or at party spots along the river: Deputies have been giving out citations there for minor consumption.

"We have zero tolerance for underage alcohol (use)," he said. "We simply won't tolerate it."

Tube rental businesses are licensed by the county, and as part of that permitting process they are required to allow deputies full access to all areas along the river, Gordon said.

"Young people tend to binge drink," Gordon said. "From that you get violence or you have medical issues."

The zero tolerance policy of the sheriff's office applies to all aspects of Ottertail River tubing as well as high school events like Homecoming, prom and graduation, Gordon said.

"We've had no serious car crashes (associated with those events) in the last 10 years," Gordon said. "We made a very conscious effort on zero tolerance and we have the numbers -- or lack of numbers -- to prove it."

Water safety over the hot holiday week is also a "huge concern," Gordon said. The sheriff's department has two officers on boat and water patrol, and DNR conservation officers also patrol the lakes and rivers.

Drinking while boating, swimming or diving can be dangerous, even deadly, and people need to be careful.

"With this heat, we know there is going to be high usage -- swimming, boating, jet skis," Gordon said. "Responsible recreation is what we're asking of people."