Coast Guard stresses penalties and consequences of hoax calls

Coast Guard Sector New York LogoNEW YORK – The U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York command center received two probable hoax calls this week.

In one instance, when a probable hoax call was relayed through a radio tower, the person made a statement of distress but failed to respond to the Coast Guard’s numerous replies for assistance. The Coast Guard later determined this call to be a hoax, but not until after local authorities had already dispatched rescue boat crews.

Making hoax distress calls to the Coast Guard is punishable under federal law, and may include monetary penalties or possible jail time.

In the past three months, Coast Guard Sector New York has had seven cases suspended due to probable hoax. In the previous year, there were 20 cases; 57 during a five-year period before that.

“It takes time away from people who may be in real distress, and can tie up assets where they are needed,” said Petty Officer 1st Class James Sybor, a search and rescue coordinator at Sector New York.

“When we hear MAYDAY across the radio, it’s our duty to respond. If there is a chance that someone is in distress, we want to get out there and help them,” said Ensign Tim Kessell, a command duty officer at Sector Long Island Sound in New Haven, Conn. “Sometimes kids are unattended and playing around in their parents’ boat, but there is always a chance that the kids are out on the water and really need help.”

Coast Guard rescue helicopters cost tax payers approximately $2,282 per hour to operate and rescue boat crews range from $1,120 to $2,740 depending on the particular boat used. If investigators determine the identity of a hoax caller, and the individual is found guilty, these costs may be passed on in addition to fines and/or jail time.

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