SEATTLE - The Coast Guard is asking for the public's help to put a stop to the vandalism of Aids to Navigation (ATON) throughout Washington and Oregon.

Vandalism to ATON has cost taxpayers and the Coast Guard more than $117,000 since 2005. Navigational aids along the Columbia River between Astoria and Kennewick have been the target of more than 30 counts of vandalism during that time.

"We've had problems with people shooting at the aids and using their vehicles to inflict damage to the land-based aids," said Timothy Westcott, an Aids to Navigation manager for the Coast Guard. "People don't realize vandalizing an ATON is like vandalizing a stop sign. If you remove a stop sign, people could be injured. Damaging an ATON can have the same effect possibly resulting in serious injuries, loss of life or catastrophic damage to the environment."

Those found guilty of vandalism to ATON can be fined up $2,500 and imprisoned for up to five years. Anybody witnessing vandalism to a navigational aid or finding a damaged aid should contact the nearest Coast Guard unit or call 911.

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