Spending the day or weekend on your boat is one of the pleasures most boaters look forward to all the time. Unfortunately, the marinas where vessels are stored at are just as susceptible to crime as our homes and places of work, if not more so. Criminals prey on two facts. (1) Many boats are left alone for days and weeks at a time and (2) when a boater heads out onto the water, criminals know that they have more than enough time to burglarize their parked car.
With that being said, it becomes important for boat owners to learn some common-sense practices for keeping the property on their boats and in their vehicles as safe as possible. Listed below are five steps that boaters can take to help protect their property from crime.
1. Mark It
This is a proven deterrent and you will have a better chance of having your property returned if it is stolen. Etch or engrave an identification number, such as you vessel ID number, onto all of your valuable items. This will enable authorities to trace lost or stolen items back to your vessel. Also, enroll in a crime prevention program, like Boat Watch USA. It is free, and you receive a Vessel ID decal which includes a warning for all would be perpetrators to avoid your vessel. Place this decal where it can be easily seen from the most common spot your vessel is boarded from. Boat Watch USA also offers smaller Boat Watch USA warning decals to affix prominently to your major equipment.
2. Record It
Secondly, record in detail all of your valuable equipment. Compile a written inventory of your boat, trailer, and all onboard equipment. Boat Watch USA includes with it’s free service a form to list unique details and other special identifying features of your vessel. If you have a trailer, you can include particulars about it too. List all electronics, outboard engines, and other gear by brand name, model and serial number. Be as descriptive as possible for both the police and insurance companies. Again, Boat Watch USA offers an online vessel equipment log where owners can record equipment information and keep it readily available for the law enforcement and insurance companies should they need it.
3. Photograph It
Photograph or video tape the interior and exterior of your vessel, showing all the installed equipment and additional gear stowed aboard. These photographs should show any identifying marks or scratches that can be useful in the recovery efforts of law enforcement. Include photographs of open drawers and lockers with all contents revealed. Date and sign the photographs and add clarifying or identifying messages as necessary. Store these photographs or video tapes in a safe location outside of your boat, such as your home.
4. Secure It
Most thieves are opportunists and seek out the easiest vessels to strike. Purchase and use quality locking devices for your boat to make entry and accessibility as difficult as possible for would be thieves. Also, remove as many items as feasible when you are going to leave your boat unattended. The best way to keep thieves from stealing property from your boat is to not leave it aboard. Remove high risk items like TV’s, radios, and CB’s. If you are not going to remove items, store them out of sight in a securely locked cabinet or locker. Lastly, you may consider having an alarm system installed on your vessel. Care should be taken to select security equipment that is resistant to environmental elements typically found near waterways.
5. Marina Security
Many thieves are successful because they look as if they belong in the area. Become acquainted with your fellow neighbors at the marina. A tactful offer to help assist a stranger to find a person or a boat will signal to thieves that you are looking out for each other and that nobody goes unnoticed. Urge your fellow neighbors to also be observant of strangers in the area and to question their presence as well.
Be sure to always lock your vehicle when parked at a launch site, marina or dock. Remember to keep all windows secured and to remove any valuables from sight. If you are not taking your purse, cell phone, or other property with you, lock it in the trunk while you are gone. Also, to lessen the opportunity a would-be-thief has to break into your vehicle, park it in an open, visible area.
Be mindful and alert of any suspicious vehicles or persons who are lingering in the area. Record license plate numbers and remember physical descriptions of these vehicles and persons you observe loitering in the area.
Remember, a marina with good security equipment and good security practices is a good start. Having marina members who actively carry out these five steps can make the difference between crime prevention and criminal activity.