Coast Guard Revives Citizens Watch Similar Program Used in World War II


NEW HAVEN -- The U.S. Coast Guard is reviving a citizens watch program based on one that was used to look for enemy landings along New England's shoreline during World War II.

The Coast Watch program asks coastal residents and boaters to look for suspicious people or activity near vulnerable sites such as marinas, power plants and bridges. Citizens should take note of anyone loitering, taking photographs or drawing diagrams along the shore, said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, who announced the program with Coast Guard officials Saturday.

They also should look for vessels that loiter offshore or circle in and around pilings, she said. Any suspicious activity or attachments to bridges or overpasses should be reported, she said.

"This is a key element of the federal homeland security effort," DeLauro said. "In World War II, our country was on a heightened security alert. It was an uncertain time in this country, not unlike what we face today since Sept. 11. We want to put our citizens on alert to keep a look out for suspicious activity."

DeLauro is a member of the newly created Select Committee on Homeland Security, which is charged with developing the legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security.

So far, no major coastal sites have been threatened by terrorists, said Coast Guard Capt. Joseph J. Coccia, commander of the Group Marine Safety Office of Long Island Sound. But tips from citizens have resulted in at least one investigation, he said.

Earlier this month, a Bridgeport marina worker reported that a man was asking to rent a boat to go fishing, Coccia said. But the marina didn't rent boats and the man had no fishing gear, the captain said.

The Coast Guard referred the matter to the FBI, which hasn't been able to locate the man, Coccia said.

Coast Guard officials will be putting up posters around the coastline, asking people to call special numbers to report potential problems.

The Coast Watch numbers for Connecticut are 800-774-8724, or 800-697-8724.

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