Be aware and be prepared.
That’s the message the Collier County Sheriff’s Office is sending out to boat owners.
Deputies are asking the public to take steps to protect their boats from being stolen in the wake of suspicious incidents over the weekend and the theft of a $160,000 boat in northern Collier County.
Eldon Gardner, 46, Bonita Springs, contacted CCSO on Saturday after his 28’ 2006 Hydra-Sport boat was stolen from West Avenue and 3rd Street in Bonita Shores. The boat was on a lift with the power shut off at the time of the theft.
Deputies also investigated incidents in the Goodland area Sunday.
On Sunday afternoon, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers spotted a Ford Expedition launching a 19-foot vessel off of State Road 92 near the Goodland Bridge and a white, full-size van, towing a personal watercraft. The men on the boat told the FWC officer that they were going to go fishing even though it was raining. The officer also noticed the fishing reels didn’t have any fishing line on them. A man on the personal watercraft said he was taking the vessel for a test ride because it recently had some work done. The white van drove away and the men were not identified at the time.
Around 8 p.m., a deputy located a Baja 28-foot go-fast-type boat with its lights off in the area of Goodland and towed it back to the Walkers Coon Key Marina, 604 E. Palm Ave. The passengers told investigators they launched the boat from Port of the Islands and were fishing when their navigation lights stopped working.
Around 11:30 p.m. a man was spotted by deputies walking out of a mangrove area toward the Ford Expedition on SR 92. The man told deputies he was out fishing with two other men, also without navigation lights, when the tide went out and their vessel got stuck in a canal.
Deputies say that in past boating thefts, personal watercraft and smaller vessels have been used to scout and assist with the thefts of vessels moored behind homes. Vans are also used to carry fuel once the vessels have been stolen.
CCSO offers these suggestions on how to protect your boat and property. If your boat is in the water or on a trailer:
· Keep the cabin locked and the curtains closed.
· Never leave the keys in the ignition or hide spare keys on the boat.
· When out of the water, store your boat in a well lit, secure area if possible.
· Select a marina with good security. It should be well lit and busy.
· If possible, store your boat in a locked garage, building or secure storage facility. If that is not possible, secure the trailer to something with a case-hardened chain and a quality lock.
· Consider one of the many wheel locks available on the market and use a quality tongue hitch on the trailer.
· Block the trailer against a building or other structure or vehicle.
If your boat is stored on a lift:
· Keep the power to the lift turned off, with the switch to the lift being in a remote location that’s not accessible to thieves.
· Install an alarm system and tracking device to aid in recovering the vessel in the event it is stolen.
· Some of the local marinas will install a remote switch on the vessel that keeps it from being started.
You can also secure your boat by:
· Recording serial numbers, hull numbers and model information of your boat and the equipment on your boat. Make two copies. Keep one in a safe place on the boat and one at home.
· Permanently mark all electronics and other valuable equipment with your driver’s license or state-issued identification number.
· Take pictures of your boat, boat equipment, and electronics to assist law enforcement in identifying them if stolen.
· Do not leave your registration on the boat when you are not aboard.
· Get to know neighboring boat owners and your boat storage or marina staff. They need to know who is normally around your boat.
Click here to view additional tips on boat safety.
If you see a crime being committed, call 911. If you have information concerning a crime, contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 239.252.9300. Or if you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).
For more information on marine security, contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Bureau at 239.252.0700, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org