Reminder: Marine related thefts are on the rise; keep your property safe

With the uptick in marine related crime in Monroe County, the Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies are working hard to catch the people who are committing these crimes. County-wide, we are working undercover and at all times of the day and night. We are using surveillance equipment both on and offshore, and are doing all we can to keep these crimes in check. The difficulty is, we don’t think these crimes are being committed by just one person or group. We think there are a number of different people or groups taking advantage of the large number of boats, divers and fishermen here in the Florida Keys.

We can’t do it alone. We need your help. Like most property crimes, marine related thefts are primarily crimes of opportunity. If you provide the opportunity, a thief will take advantage of it. If you take away the opportunity or at least make theft more difficult, the thief will generally move on and victimize someone else. We would much rather a crime be prevented, whether it be theft of an entire boat, an engine, a lower unit, electronics from on board, or diving and fishing equipment.

Here are a few tips for keeping your property safe:

  • Remove the keys from the boat; if it is on a lift, turn the breaker off in the house to disable it.
  • Install motion sensor lights. Make sure areas around the boat are well lighted.
  • Install surveillance cameras and make sure they will capture the face of an intruder. Cameras are often installed too high and only capture the top of a suspect’s head or the brim of the hat he is wearing.
  • Whether on a trailer or in a canal, make sure your boat can be seen by neighbors and/or deputies patrolling the neighborhood.
  • Remove the steering wheel if the boat won’t be used for a long time.
  • Install a GPS tracking device on your boat and/or engines.
  • Install a boat alarm. Alarms are very effective at preventing equipment and boat thefts.
  • 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 to prevent the entire boat and trailer from being stolen.
  • Keep a trailer hitch lock on at all times.
  • Install bolt locks on the engine or put extra-long engine bolts on and bend the ends.
  • Destroy the threads on one bolt so the nut can’t be removed.
  • Back the boat close to a house, wall, or other stationary object.
  • Keep valuable electronics in a secure location. It might be a hassle, but it will save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
  • Engrave your driver’s license number or make a distinctive marking on your valuable property for identification purposes.
  • Take pictures and record serial numbers if available.
  • Don’t leave fishing and diving equipment unattended outside It only takes a thief a minute  – literally – to take it.
  • If you are gone for an extended period, call your local Sheriff’s Office substation. Our deputies will  keep an eye on your property while you are away.

Important: If you see anything suspicious call the Sheriff’s Office immediately! It is our job to check out suspicious activity. Your call may be the one that helps us catch the bad guys!  Call 911 if a crime is taking place; call 305-289-2351 if you see something you think may be suspicious. Call Crime Stoppers with any crime tips: 1-800-346-TIPS or text 274637 using the keyword TIP136. Submit tips online at

With lobster season approaching swiftly, and with the summer boating season here, there are people who are driving or boating around our local neighborhoods scouting locations for later crimes, or just looking for a quick opportunity to steal something. Don’t give them the opportunity. And if you see a neighbor or a visitor leaving valuables where they are easily accessible, remind them to secure their property as well. If you see or hear of someone trying to sell rods and reels, fishing equipment or electronics call us immediately. Working together, we can reduce the opportunity for these crimes and, if everyone keeps their eyes open and their phones handy, perhaps we can catch some of the perpetrators as well.

If you know anything at all about marine related thefts in the Florida Keys, call the Sheriff’s Office. You can also call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Tipsters can remain anonymous and, if a tip leads to an arrest in the case, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may also be submitted on line at or via a text message to 274637 using the keyword TIP136.

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