For those of us who love living in the Tampa Bay area, boating and fishing rank high among favorite outdoor activities for many people. Serious anglers are willing to spend a great deal of time and money in pursuit of a wide variety of fish species. The expense often includes boats that are built for specific types of fishing. These boats range from flats boats that are designed to operate in very shallow water to large multi-engine boats designed to operate offshore in hundreds of feet of water.
Because these offshore boats are designed to operate at high speed in open water, they have a have large fuel capacity and a long range. Over the past few months it has become clear that the large offshore boats are also popular with thieves. At least five of these very expensive boats have been stolen from locations along the Intracoastal Waterway where they had been stored, and investigators believe that it is unlikely they are still in our area. In each of these recent cases the stolen vessel has been stored on a lift at or near a private residence. The thieves were able to lower the boats into the water, start the engines and drive away undetected.
There are many things a boat owner can do to prevent theft, in fact many of the same security precautions used to prevent auto theft are now available for boats. The most basic prevention tip is to lock all compartments and take the keys with you rather than storing them on the boat. It is also a good idea to turn off battery and fuel switches, especially if the boat is stored on or near the water.
Owners who store boats on a lift are encouraged to turn off electrical power at the lift breaker, and to lock the control or breaker box to prevent easy operation. Owners should consider using a high quality cable and locks to secure boats that are stored in the water at a dock. Boats that are stored on trailers should be secured to the trailer with a lock and cable. A latch and or hitch lock is recommended to prevent easy tow away. For any type of storage the use of alarms, security lights and a high quality surveillance system is always a good idea.
Even after an owner has taken proper steps to prevent a theft, a determined thief may be successful in taking a boat. There are several types of security systems that have been developed in recent years that use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to track stolen boats. Some of these systems can even be programmed to alert the owner if the boat moves beyond a predetermined distance from the storage location.
No matter what size boat you own or how much you have invested in it, securing your boat to prevent theft is important. Boat thefts frequently result in a large financial loss for the owner and/or their insurance company. Furthermore, large offshore boats capable of traveling long distances at high speeds are sometimes used in various types of smuggling operations when they are stolen, and they pose a serious border security risk.
For additional information about how you can secure your vessel, contact the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Marine Enforcement Unit at (727) 518-3434. Preventing vessel theft is just one more way you can help us to achieve our goal of “Leading The Way For A Safer Pinellas.”