Florida Keys

Boat thefts are on the rise in the Florida Keys. Here’s how you can stop the trend.

These are boats anchored in a Florida Keys basin. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office warns that boat thefts are on the rise in the Upper Keys.
These are boats anchored in a Florida Keys basin. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office warns that boat thefts are on the rise in the Upper Keys. Keynoter File

As if residents of the Florida Keys haven’t had enough to deal with since September’s Irma assault, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that the Upper Keys have seen a recent increase in outboard boat engine thefts.

Thieves are getting bolder, they say.

According to deputies, thieves are targeting all sizes and makes, but mostly Yamaha and in one case, a Mercury. Fenced-in lots have not been a deterrent as criminals simply cut their way onto private property. In each case, steering cables, fuel lines and wiring harnesses have been cleanly severed.

“Marine related thefts are primarily crimes of opportunity. If you provide the opportunity, a thief will take advantage of it,” Monroe officials said.

A boat graveyard sits in the Dinner Key marina parking lot on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. Boats damaged and abandoned after Hurricane Irma are stacked up to be demolished.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office suggested a handful of tips owners should adopt to avoid becoming a crime victim in this latest wave.

▪ Remove the keys from the boat, of course. Here’s what else you can do: If the boat is on a lift, turn the breaker off in the house to disable its operation.

▪ Install motion sensor lights. Make sure areas around the boat are well lit.

▪ Install surveillance cameras and make sure they will capture the face of an intruder. According to deputies, cameras are often installed too high and only capture the top of a suspect’s head or the brim of a hat.

▪ Make sure your boat can be seen by your neighbors and patrolling deputies when it’s on its trailer or in the canal.

▪ If you’re not going to use the boat for a long while, remove its steering wheel.

▪ Install a GPS tracking device on your boat and or on its engines.

▪ Install a boat alarm.

▪ Disconnect the batteries to disable the trim/tilt function. Keep the engine down, touching the ground so the lower unit can’t be removed.

▪ If the boat is on a trailer, chain the rims together or boot one of the wheels to prevent the entire boat and trailer from being stolen.

▪ Keep a trailer hitch lock on at all times.

▪ Keep valuable electronics in a secure location.

▪ Engrave your driver’s license number or make a distinctive marking on your property to help identify it as yours.

▪ Take pictures and record serial numbers, if available.

▪ Don’t leave fishing and diving equipment unattended.

If you see something suspicious, deputies at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office ask that you call them at 305-289-2351. If the crime is taking place call 911. Crime Stoppers at 800-346-8477 welcomes your tips, too, or visit www.tipsubmit.com.

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