Coast Guard says phony distress calls have tripled - WNEM TV 5

Coast Guard says phony distress calls have tripled

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Source: U.S. Coast Guard Source: U.S. Coast Guard

A spike in false distress calls is becoming an expensive burden for taxpayers.

The Coast Guard said they're seeing a false distress call rate in the Great Lakes region that is three times higher than this time last year.

About half of the 300 mayday calls on Lake Michigan so far in 2017 were false, according to an official.

Roughly a third of those are thought to have been made by children.

Other reasons for false distress calls include improper radio operation and mariners performing radio tests.

Officials said it's an expensive problem.

The price tag for the average call, lasting about three hours, comes to roughly $60,000, including manpower and helicopter costs.

"False distress calls range from someone saying 'Mayday, help, emergency,' or something to that affect while providing no additional information, or someone claiming their boat is sinking, a plane has crashed. They can also be made by a person who announces they are in trouble in order to perform a radio check,” Cmdr. Leanne Lusk said.

The Coast Guard is asking parents and guardians to secure marine band radios from children and to teach youngsters not to play on the radio.

False distress calls are punishable by up to six years in prison, and $250,000 in fines, but officials said prosecution is very time-consuming.

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