Every year, as spring and summer approach, the Sheriff’s Office begins to see more crimes related to boats, boating and fishing. Recently, detective units county-wide have seen an uptick in the theft of various types of fishing equipment – particularly rods and reels.
Since February, there have been approximately 30 reports county-wide of fishing equipment stolen. Most of the stolen equipment has been rods and reels, with some dive equipment and one small outboard motor. In virtually all these cases, the thefts have been easily preventable. The items have virtually all been unsecured, either easily accessible on board a boat, stored underneath a home outside, or in an unlocked downstairs enclosure.
Thefts that have occurred in close geographic areas may or may not be connected. Many of the cases have similarities with others or are very close in time and place to each other. Detectives do not believe, however, that this is an organized “ring” of thieves.
“I think we have a few here and a few there being committed by the same people,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “Do I think they are all connected county-wide? No, I don’t,” he said. “We are working hard on these cases. We could use citizens’ help both when it comes to preventing these crimes and when it comes to solving them.”
These crimes are most likely crimes of opportunity, detectives say. Someone just decides to go door to door in a neighborhood looking for things of value to steal. It just so happens we are a marine centered community and many times the things they find to steal that are easily accessible include rods, reels and other fishing equipment.
· In the Lower Keys, there have been eight such thefts between Cudjoe Key and Big Coppitt Key; four on Cudjoe, two on Sugarloaf and one each on Summerland Key and Big Coppitt Key. In four of those cases, property has been recovered and returned to the owner.
· In the Middle Keys there have been nine cases, three in Duck Key, three in Layton and three on Conch Key.
· In the Upper Keys, there have been 13 cases, seven in Islamorada and six in Key Largo.
Fortunately, there are steps everyone can take to avoid becoming a victim of this type of crime. Do not leave your equipment unsecured. Take your rods and reels off your boat at the end of a fishing trip. Make sure these valuable items are locked up securely.
There are also things you can do to help with our investigation of such crimes. First of all, you should be aware of suspicious vehicles, vessels or people in your neighborhood and shouldn’t hesitate to call the Sheriff’s Office if you see something suspicious. In addition, make sure you document any valuables you own. Take photographs and record serial numbers. If possible, engrave items with your driver’s license number or mark them with some kind of identifying mark you will remember. This will help us when and if we recover property to sort out who it belongs to and return the property to the rightful owner.
If you hear about anyone trying to sell rods and reels or fishing equipment, call the Sheriff’s Office right away. Anyone with information about this type of crime should contact the Sheriff’s Office. Callers may also contact 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 www.tipsubmit.com.