Thieves are keeping Monroe County law enforcement busy after numerous lower units of boat engines were reported stolen the past week in Marathon.
Similar crimes occurred last month when six lower units were stolen from boats on Gulfstream Boulevard and 75th Street Ocean West.
A majority of the newest thefts occurred in the Coco Plum Drive area, including on Avenue E and Avenue G, where four lower units were taken. One lower unit was taken from Aviation Boulevard and another from Mockingbird Lane.
A lower unit attaches the prop to the actual motor. Brian Macho, who lives on Avenue E, had two lower units stolen. He said they weigh about 75 pounds each and can cost thousands of dollars.
"It requires a lot to get off," Macho said. "They're valuable on the resale market. You might get $500 to $600."
The steering wheel and electronics were also stolen from Macho's boat.
Macho said he was in West Palm Beach when a Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputy called him and reported someone was prowling through Coco Plum Friday. Macho noticed the lower units were missing driving through the neighborhood Saturday.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Becky Herrin said while the crimes are similar, it's too soon to determine if all the thefts are related.
"It's a relatively common type of crime in the Keys," Herrin said. "Marine-related crimes are not unusual, although this amount is."
Herrin said stolen boat gear usually isn't recovered since most of it is brought to Miami and the rest of South Florida. Herrin said stolen items are usually sold overseas or under the table, making it nearly impossible for police to track.
Detectives are checking for possible surveillance video at the scene of the crimes.
Anything pawned in Florida requires fingerprinting of the person seeking money for the item and registering the item to a database to which police have access. Herrin said the databases are being checked to see if anything turns up.
Since recovering stolen goods is rare, Herrin said prevention is key to not becoming a victim.
"Don't leave fishing equipment and electronics on a boat," she said. "Back your boat up to a solid object like a wall so they can't trim the engine up and take it."
Herrin also advises people leaving the Keys for a trip to inform his or her neighbors to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity.
"Oftentimes when we're working on these cases, a resident or neighbor will hear something at night," Herrin said. "If you hear something suspicious, call us. We would rather prevent a crime than have to investigate it afterward."
Anyone with information about the thefts should call Sheriff's office at 289-2430. Tipsters can remain anonymous. Tips leading to an arrest may result in a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys hotline is 346-TIPS Tips can also be submitted at www.tipsubmit.com or by texting 274637 using the keyword TIP136.