Mississippi River Patrols

April 8, 2003
Posted at: 6:22 p.m. CST

MISSISSIPPI RIVER -- As the war continues in Iraq, and an Orange Alert continues. Homeland security continues to be tight across the country, especially in the major thoroughfares across Region 8.

As part of work to secure the Mississippi River, the U.S. Coast Guard will be keeping tabs on traffic and visitors to it. For example, visitors may be asked to show identification. That is just one of several safety measures that the USCG plans to continue indefinitely.

"We're out there," Lt. Cmdr. Neil Shoemaker said. "We're looking for suspicious activity."

Before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the federal government asked the State of Tennessee to beef up security here along the Mississippi river, specifically on its bridges into Northeast Arkansas.

"Interstate 40 bridge here in Memphis, Interstate 55 bridge, Harrahan railroad bridge," Shoemaker said. "There are a few south of here, as far as Greenville, Miss., where they're building a new bridge."

While cruising the river, the guard will be looking for suspicious activity on recreational and commercial boats. It will also be asking recreational boaters to stay away from primary port areas, unless they're operating commercial vehicles.

"There will be increased activity on patrols," said Shoemaker. "Boardings, to ask for identification and vessel documentation. We're trying to keep those areas clear to screen for potential threats."

In order to help out with that task, a team of Texas-based guardsmen are docking in Memphis. They have orders to stay as long as necessary. Margaret Kievit is in charge of the team.

"That's our goal: To be an extra set of eyes, and to let the public know that they can call us if they see anything," Kievet said.

The Coast Guard encourages citizens to report any suspicious activity occurring along the Mississippi River. It asks that you to contact the USCG National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.