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Longboat Key Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009 13 years ago

Meeting combats wave of Key boat thefts

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Approximately 10 years ago, boat thefts spiked in the Jacksonville-Daytona Beach area. The stolen boats began turning up in the Bahamas. But law-enforcement agencies in that area wised up to their tactics, and the thieves headed south to Miami and Coral Gables. When police in those areas stepped up enforcement, the thieves moved on to Key West, and, then, to Naples. Now, since the beginning of the year, Longboat Key has experienced at least six boat thefts.

“It’s our turn in the barrel,” said Longboat Key Deputy Police Chief Martin Sharkey, speaking at an Oct. 29 meeting at Cannons Marina that focused on boat-theft prevention. Approximately 50 people attended the meeting.

Benny Parrish, manager of Cannons Marina, said that Cannons officials decided to host the meeting after three customers’ boats were stolen.

“The type of boat these people are looking for is a high-quality boat they can get across the waters quickly,” Parrish said.

Sharkey and Parrish, along with Longboat Key Marine Patrol Officer Dennis Silverio and U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Scott Logan, spoke at the meeting. Although he couldn’t comment about what the boats are being used for, due to an ongoing investigation, Sharkey said that the stolen boats are turning up in Cuba and Mexico.

The speakers said that the best way to stop theft is to interrupt power to the boat. Thieves typically spend months surveying an expensive boat and will usually have its key before stealing it. Owners can keep their hoist power breakers in a locked, secure place and turn them off when they aren’t being used. Ideally, an owner should be able to control power to the breaker box from inside his or her home.

Speakers also recommended security features such as motion-sensor lights, an alarm system and tracking-and-steering lights. They also suggested installing a Web camera on boats and docks that allow for remote viewing.

Parrish discussed security products, including GPS tracking devices, alarm systems and mechanical locking devices.

Logan said that the theft ring can typically find a way to steal any boat. The key is to add features that let the thieves know that the boat will take extra time to steal.

“If you make it less attractive, they’re not going to spend the time,” Logan said.

Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]

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