From January to April of 2009, six thefts from vessels and six stolen vessels were reported by the Marine Patrol in the Discovery Bay/Bethel Island area. 2010 preliminary figures show a reported six thefts and 17 stolen vessels for the same four-month period.
According to Lt. Will Duke of the Delta Marine Patrol, the majority of vessels are being stolen primarily for the valuables on board.
“It seems to me that they (the thieves) are looking for items such as GPS, fish finders, and sound systems and not the boats themselves, because we are retrieving the boats,” said Duke. “Are they (the boats) in good shape when we find them? Well, that depends upon your interpretation. But I can tell you that they are taking some of the boats right off the boat lifts, letting the air out, lowering them into the water, stripping them and letting them go. We think this is being done in the darkness because otherwise we would have had some people reporting them.”
Duke said that he believed the uptick in boating thefts might be due in part to the difficult economy, which often triggers an increase in crime. That, coupled with the state’s early release of low-risk criminals, might be another reason for the surge.
“There is definitely a bump in these types of crimes, and because our on-water patrol is stretched so thin right now due to budget cuts, I know that also plays into the equation,” said Duke.
Boat owners are not without defenses. Duke recommends removing all valuables and electronic devices from the boats when they are not in use. Motion-sensor lights installed along the boat decks have proven effective in scaring away would-be thieves and also serve to keep neighbors as well as homeowners aware of any suspicious activity.
“The more proactive steps you take to protect your vessels, the more you are going to take away the opportunity from would-be criminals,” said Duke.
The Marine Patrol is working to combat this recent rash of crime as well as anticipating the busy summer months on the water by altering regular patrol patterns in an effort to keep an eye on Delta activity.
But the public’s help is paramount. “We’re out there, we’re dedicated and we’re doing the best job we can with the resources we have,” said Duke. “But I also can’t stress enough the importance of the community’s participation. I urge everyone to be vigilant. Work with your neighbors, let them know if you are going out of town or will be gone for the night. Install lighting and remove your valuables, and report any suspicious activity. Those things together can make a big, big difference.”
Marine Patrol Services can be reached at 925-427-8598.