Preventing marine theft

Thursday, June 26, 2008

According to Monday morning's top headline in the Springfield News-Leader, Table Rock Lake is Missouri's top lake when it comes to thefts. I draw attention to this fact, not to detract from one of this area's biggest tourist draws, but to urge area boat owners to make sure they enjoy their visit to the lake by taking certain precautions to prevent marine theft.

Kathleen O'Dell, who writes a regular feature about summertime on Table Rock Lake for the News-Leader, reports that the Missouri State Water Patrol reported 149 thefts totalling $137,000 in Missouri during 2007, and of that total, 75 thefts totalling $62,000 occurred on Table Rock Lake. I was really surprised by that number, because Lake of the Ozarks is a much busier lake than Table Rock, which should translate into more marine-related thefts. With that said, it also makes sense that the more secluded and quiet beauty of the less commercialized Table Rock Lake would also provide thieves with more opportunities to target boats and boat docks with less chance of being caught.

The thefts reported by the Water Patrol pertain mostly to property stolen from boats or boat docks. Crimes that occur in lakeside homes or businesses are the domain of city police departments or sheriff's departments. When I was looking into the problem of marine theft on Table Rock Lake, I found an extensive list of theft prevention tips on the Missouri State Water Patrol website, which can be located on-line at www.mswp.dps.mo.gov. Listed below is just some of the advice the Water Patrol suggests boat owners follow.

* A good starting point in theft-proofing your boat and boat dock is to think like a criminal. What factors about your boat or dock make you an easy target for a thief?

* Remove fishing tackle, marine electronics and other equipment from the boat when you leave the lake.

* Make sure all your equipment is marked with the owner's Social Security number and state abbreviation. It is also wise to photograph or videotape the interior and exterior of your boat and make an inventory list of all equipment.

* If you use a dock locker, make sure it is secure. Locker doors need to be secured with an angle iron cross bar or heavy-duty specially shielded lock.

* Remove small outboard motors from boats when the vessels are left unattended for an extended period of time. If you choose not to remove the motor, a outboard motor lock should be utilized.

* Personal watercraft should be secured to a stationary fixture on the dock using a heavy vinyl-coated cable, log chains and shielded locks. Operators are also reminded to remove the kill switch when the watercraft is left unattended.

* Store a trailered boat in a locked garage, secured boat storage facility or mini-storage stall. If you must store your boat and trailer outside, store it with the trailer tongue not easily accessible. It is also wise to secure the boat and trailer to a secure object with a good quality chain and lock.

* Start a "dock watch" program where you keep your boat. Become acquainted with your dock neighbors and be on the look out for suspicious activity.

On a positive note, it appears that thefts on Table Rock Lake have actually been declining over the past four years. According to Missouri State Water Patrol records, there were 120 thefts on Table Rock in 2004, 114 thefts in 2005, 101 thefts in 2006 and 74 thefts this past year. This summer let's make sure that number decreases even more by following the tips the Water Patrol has made available.