NANAIMO — A new tool has been added to fight the huge problem of stolen boats from Nanaimo's waterfront, which has plagued the inner harbour for several months.
Nanaimo RCMP Cst. Mike Eckert said a bait boat has been placed in the water as part of a pilot project aimed at nabbing thieves and discouraging heists. He said an alarming 16 boats were stolen since May, primarily in the Boat Basin marina.
He said their bait boat, launched in partnership with the Nanaimo Port Authority, includes GPS tracking capability to detail where a thief is headed.
Eckert said far too many boats are under-secured while moored at local marinas, which thieves thrive on.
“It's not like a car where it has a lot of different theft deterrent systems on it, it's a hard thing to do in a salt water environment,” Eckert told NanaimoNewsNOW while overlooking the busy Boat Basin.
He hoped added resources, in addition to a pair of local RCMP zodiacs, will make thieves think twice before stealing a boat.
Eckert said a majority of this year's stolen boats have been recovered, ranging from small aluminum fishing boats, to a 24-foot speed boat.
“A few that have fallen victim to having tenders from their larger boats stolen,” Eckert said. “They come into Nanaimo to visit the city, they tie up their boat and walk away and had their boat stolen.”
Sixteen stolen boats since May in Nanaimo is a stark reversal to the zero reported thefts last year, according to Eckert.
He said valuables in plain view, like down-riggers and depth sounders, are asking to be stolen. He stressed the importance of documenting serial numbers and other unique markings for investigative purposes.
While the busy summer boating season is winding down, Eckert said thieves remain active over the winter.
“During the winter time people don't check on their boats every day, they might go weeks or months without looking at their boat. By the time they discover it they figure it's not worth reporting.”
Eckert said the recent arrests of alleged boat thieves Ian Seward and David Malcolm have helped the situation, but he believed others are involved.
Reaction from several boaters we talked to at the Boat Basin about a bait boat in local waters was overwhelmingly positive.
Sailor Howard Miller, visiting the Harbour City from Idaho for a second time in a month, said a bait boat is “an awesome idea which will hopefully make a difference.”
Miller said he was warned by a fellow Boat Basin user in August who had his radio stolen. Miller now secures his valuables whenever he's not on board, wherever he is.
“Oh absolutely, now that I know I've started putting things below every time I tie to a dock that's unsecured like this one.”
The Nanaimo RCMP detachment is believed to be one of the first in Canada to deploy a bait boat.
The more traditional bait cars, outfitted with cameras and GPS devices to catch thieves, have been used nationwide for several years, including in Nanaimo.
On Twitter: @reporterholmes
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