This time, the thieves obviously took their time.
Fifty-four boats were burglarized at BLK Storage and Rentals on Industrial Road on Big Pine Key sometime over the weekend, says the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Detectives spent all day Monday at the site trying to contact the owners, many of whom don't live here full-time, and trying to catalogue what's missing.
Agency spokeswoman Becky Herrin said the landowner discovered the damage Monday. He had last been there at 5 p.m. Friday. Many of the vessels had plastic or canvas covers that were sliced so the thieves could gain access.
Likely gone, among other things, are GPS units and engine lower units, the two main things taken in most boat burglaries. It's believed they are either sold on the mainland or shipped out of the U.S.
Sheriff Rick Ramsay has said the thieves -- it's likely more than one individual or group -- are "professional criminals.”
The Keys have been plagued by boat break-ins all year, and there is no pattern. They've occurred from the Lower Keys through Key Largo. Among the thefts:
- In Marathon two weekends ago, thieves hit eight boats in residential neighborhoods, stealing GPS units, rods, reels and a radar unit.
- In July, 12 Lower Keys boats were burglarized in residential neighborhoods, as were three in Marathon.
- In June over the course of a few days, seven boats were burglarized from Key Largo to Summerland Key.
- In January, 10 GPS units, 12 fishing rods, a Mercury motor and 30-foot Contender with twin Yamaha outboards were stolen.
There are things you can do to minimize the risk of your boat being burglarized, the main thing being removing all gear you can after returning to the dock and installing motion-sensor lights.
If you are hit, it's best if you had a surveillance system, took pictures of your boat and all related gear, and wrote down the serial numbers of everything. That way, if anything is recovered, it can be identified as yours.
The Sheriff's Office and Crime Stoppers are offering up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest or recovery of stolen marine equipment.
Anyone with information about the crimes should contact the Sheriff's Office at (305) 481-8060. Crime Stoppers can be reached at (800) 346-TIPS. Tips may also be submitted on line to www.tipsubmit.com or via text message to 274637 using the keyword TIP136.