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Boat thefts down nationwide

A new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) examines watercraft theft and recoveries as the annual boating season nears its official launch.

Watercraft theft and recovery data reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) for the period Jan. 1, 2006, through March 31, 2009, was reviewed for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Overall, there were 19,854 reported watercraft thefts during the period. There was a 2.47 percent decrease in thefts from 2006 to 2008. Of the total reported thefts for the period, 9,060 were recovered, which translates to 45.63 percent.

The recoveries experienced an upward trend for the period.

The top five states for thefts in descending order are Florida, California, Texas, Michigan and North Carolina, while the top five for recoveries are Florida, California, Texas, Washington and Michigan.

A value was determined for only 334 of the total thefts (NCIC does not require a value) and that amounted to more than $5.2 million with the most expensive single loss valued at $600,000. The average value of these 334 watercraft was $15,615.

Although watercraft theft is mostly a seasonal crime, many states have year-round seasons and owners need to practice safe and smart boating.

NICB recommends the following tips to help protect your watercraft from theft:

• When you dock it, lock it and secure it to the dock with a steel cable
• Remove expensive equipment when not in use
• Chain and lock detachable motors to the boat
• Do not leave title or registration papers in the craft
• Disable the craft by shutting fuel lines or removing batteries -- Use a trailer hitch lock after parking a boat on its trailer
• Install a kill switch in the ignition system

NICB's boat theft awareness brochure is available here. The complete list of prevention tips and a useful marine equipment identification checklist are available here.