Police nab boat motor thief

One down, nearly 10 to go.

Thanks to sharp eyes and a good citizen from Idaho, the Port Orchard Police Department last week recovered an outboard motor stolen from the Port Orchard Marina in recent months. That means there’s only about eight left to find of those stolen since summer began.

It’s difficult to keep an accurate count of exactly what’s missing from local marinas. Many boat owners only visit their vessels periodically, so thefts are hard to track and many go months before they are reported.

In fact, just a few weeks ago a boat owner called police to report someone had stolen his dingy. However, because he last saw the dingy in January, it was impossible for police to attribute a specific month — let alone a date or time — to the crime.

Nevertheless, police believe there is a definite rash of thefts going on. Besides the outboards, marinas and private docks have reported missing boats, vanished trailers and signs of on-board burglaries.

Other major thefts are up, too. In the first week of July alone, seven cars were reported stolen or attempted stolen in Port Orchard. One woman said she sat by the window at a Bat Street restaurant and actually watched two people try and break into her car. The culprits left, the woman reported, when they saw her staring at them.

The outboard police recovered last week had been stolen off a Port Orchard boat in the last few months. Port Orchard Det. Jason Glantz said his supervisor, Sgt. Mark Duncan, found the engine during a random search of Ebay, an on-line auction forum.

When police contacted the seller, an Idaho man, he said he bought the motor in Mason County during a recent trip to the area. The motor was traced back to a Belfair man, who originally sold the outboard to a marine repair shop for an undisclosed amount.

The 44-year-old suspect was arrested for trafficking in stolen property. He will be charged through the Mason County court system.

Glantz said the Idaho man is not being implicated in the crime.

“The guy was very helpful,” he said. “He actually drove the motor down to the insurance company.”

Despite the success of recovering one outboard, Glantz said the arrest won’t necessarily shed any light on the other thefts. The fact that this motor showed up in Idaho is indicative of how hard it can be to track down highly marketable items such as boat equipment. As warm weather draws people to the water, he explained, business is booming for boat and boat parts dealers.

“With the way the weather’s been, there’s a lot of people who want to go out and get their boats on the water,” Glantz said. “Who knows where the rest might be.”

Other nearby jurisdictions are facing similar struggles.

The Mason County Sheriff’s Department filed 21 stolen-outboard reports since March. Mason County Det. William Adam said in a typical year, they usually only see 10 or 12 such thefts.

“It does seem a little high,” Adam said.

Mason’s thefts differ from Port Orchard’s thefts in that thieves are apparently not targeting marinas. Adam said they’ve had motors stolen from private docks, public moorage — anywhere. He said they even took a report of an engine stolen off the back of someone’s boat as it sat in a parking lot.

Adam said the department has had moderate success in getting the motors back. He said they’ve identified “a few,” even recovering one off another boat they encountered on the water.

Gig Harbor has also had problems, although not as severe as those in Kitsap and Mason counties.

Marine Patrol Officer Det. Kelly Busey said they’ve had a few more thefts than usual, but not an amount significantly above the five to 10 outboards that disappear in a typical year.

“I’d say this year we’ve already lost our 10,” he said.

Busey said the department managed to shut down a rash of thefts at one specific marina by getting the marina operators to repair a fence near one of the marina’s secure entry points. However, he said there have been cases of thieves coming in by boat and taking engines that aren’t locked own properly.

Busey said the chances of getting most of those engines back are minimal.

“Most owners don’t have the serial number to their own engines,” he explained. “They’re gone.”

The Port of Bremerton, which owns the Port Orchard Marina, will take measures similar to those in Gig Harbor to discourage thieves from hitting the facility again.

Last month, port officials announced their plans to bump up security at the marina — plans that include tightening the marina’s access card security system and encouraging tenants to lock down engines and photograph any high-value items stored aboard their boats. The port has also hired extra security to patrol the floats and is considering buying security cameras as an additional deterrent.

The focus, said officials, is on minimizing the next rash of thefts that could potentially hit the marina.

“I think a camera into the entranceway is worth pursuing and wouldn’t be terribly costly,” said port chief operations officer Tim Thomson. “Every time we start to think the rash is over, we’re informed another one or two has been discovered missing.”

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