Theft Prevention Tips

Boat and marine-related thefts are on the rise and with over 1-million registered vessels in the state of Florida, criminals have plenty of options to choose from. Unfortunately, there is little we can do to make our most prized possessions 100-percent thief-proof. While every little bit of preventative practice helps, crooks are patient and they will watch, wait and plan. It is sad to say, but right now in the state of Florida criminals are conspiring their next attack…and it could be your boat or accessories they’re after.


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Photo: Florida Marine Intelligence Unit

Whether it’s an elaborate human trafficking scheme, high-speed drug drop or simple chop-shop grab and go, you’ve surely heard the horror stories. Whether it was your co-worker, brother, neighbor or favorite charter captain, boat thefts are hitting dangerously close to home. Logically, thieves aren’t targeting small runabouts, but rather high-priced go-fast boats for their inherent speed and seaworthy attributes. If a crook isn’t gutsy enough to steal your boat your outboard motor makes for a relatively quick and easy job, as do your electronics. In today’s day and age, nothing is safe and you should take all of the necessary precautions to protect your valuables. You may be in the group of boaters that thinks they will never be burglarized, but don’t think for one second you are safe simply because you keep your vessel stowed high and dry on a boat lift or trailer. Perhaps the only guarantee one has is at an indoor dry storage marina. I have yet to hear of burglars commandeer a triple-outboard powered vessel from a second story dry storage rack. Nevertheless, if you own an outboard powered vessel then you are in the zone. While you probably rely on an insurance policy for a good night’s sleep, there is a whole lot more that you can do.

Most burglars are looking for an easy job and there are a few proactive approaches you can implement to thwart their attempts. Unfortunately, it is very hard to stop a determined thief, as they are opportunists and will steal first and think about the value later. Prevention really comes down to how much you want to spend and how vigilant you’re willing to be. Whether it is a transom lock, lower unit, prop, trailer or wheel lock any visual deterrent will stand in the way of criminals looking for a quick buck. While not foolproof, cut-and-run scum may think twice about the situation if they are forced to hack off any kind of lock or chain that is going to create a lot of noise and unwanted attention.

Looking past visual deterrents, new-age technologies have given way to some pretty crafty anti-theft and recovery devices. Several cutting-edge manufacturers now offer GPS based devices that help avoid the unthinkable, while also helping to quickly locate a vessel if it is stolen. When these state-of-the-art security systems are armed a wireless geo-fence is created around your vessel. If your boat moves beyond the defined range, you will be promptly notified with the vessels latitude/longitude, speed, heading and distance to the nearest city. Nav-Tracker is one such system that also allows you to track your vessel on Google Earth in real-time.

According to Lieutenant Jay Marvin of the Florida Marine Intelligence Unit, boat theft prevention is a two-pronged approach. Just as important as prevention, it is essential you permanently mark or engrave your boat, trailer, and all your equipment and electronics with your vessels hull identification number (HIN). Speaking with Lieutenant Marvin, we were introduced to an ingenious product that can be used to help recover your stolen vessel and gear. DataDot technology is a state-of-the-art identification system that consists of polyester substrate micro-dots, each the size of a grain of sand, onto which unique information is laser etched, such as your HIN number. Invisible to the naked eye, the micro-dots are sprayed onto your hull and/or equipment for later detection. Since many stolen boats are stripped to the point where they are completely unrecognizable, any tool that will aid in identification and recovery will be a huge benefit.

While burglary is a fact of life, a few basic steps will go a long way in preventing theft and aiding in a speedy recovery.

The Truth Hurts

According to the Florida Marine Intelligence Unit, during the fourth quarter of 2009 a total of 658 marine-related thefts were reported by Florida law enforcement entities. FWC reported ten initial seizures, including three resulting from title fraud cases and one resulting from a vessel operating with an altered HIN number. Of the 658 reported thefts, 343 were vessels and 315 involved various marine parts.