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Tips for beating the thieves

They know him on the fishing forum by his screen name, Raising Cane, and that’s how he likes it because the self-described “anti-theft nut” doesn’t want boat thieves to find out who he is.

They know him on the fishing forum by his screen name, Raising Cane, and that’s how he likes it because the self-described “anti-theft nut” doesn’t want boat thieves to find out who he is.

He’s pretty sure they’d try to steal his boat, which like most of the trailerable boats in and around Miami sits on a trailer at his house.

Read the other story in this package: Police break up Miami boat-theft ring

Mr. Cane, we’ll call him, a Miami angler — owner of a 29-foot SeaVee — is one of the few people who has thought about ways to keep his boat out of thieves’ hands as hard as they think of ways to take it away from him.

He is a professional with a career in financial lending and Coast Guard investigators will privately tell you he knows more about driveway boat theft deterrent than anyone in the region.

Mr. Cane readily shares his thoughts about protecting his boat with like-minded, angry-as-hell South Florida trailerable-boat owners on FS Forum at OutdoorsBest Forums,

He says he’s pretty sure the thieves monitor the forum to see what anti-theft measures boat owners are taking, and would like nothing better than to prove that they can crack even Mr. Cane’s defenses.

His following on the forum acts as a kind of neighborhood watch for boat owners. They report boat, engine and electronics thefts, identify trends in what thieves are targeting and describe scofflaws’ modus operandi. They report arrests, post suspects’ photos and arrest records, and track outcomes of cases — giving the state’s attorney what-for if she lets one off on probation or community service.

They want hard jail time.

“A couple of years ago, there was a severe rash of thefts,” Mr. Cane says in a telephone interview. He calls it “the horror trail”— a series of 20 to 30 theft reports on the forum. That was when he decided to get active and mobilize boaters to use counter-measures.

He says Miami’s thieves typically target boats stored at home on trailers. The more expensively tricked-out the boat the better. Twin or triple engines and a full complement of electronics are prime rib for these folks. They often case the house and boat first, sometimes even taking photos. Then they strike, often in daylight when homeowners are at work. They break through the gate, cut the trailer’s security chains and locks, hook the trailer up to the truck and drive off. The operation takes just a few minutes. They tow it to a warehouse or private home nearby, and strip the engines and electronics. Within hours, the boat could be sitting abandoned along the road.

In one memorable case, an 18-foot Wellcraft was sitting behind a chain-link fence and locked gate, Mr. Cane says. The thieves backed up to the gate, tied a short length of chain between the truck and trailer and drove off dragging a section of the chain-link fence.

“No one tried to stop them,” he says. “They are brazen.”

On the forum, Mr. Cane recommends:

• A GPS anti-theft tracking device. Buy a commercial one (costs about $500) or make one yourself. Get a cell phone with GPS locator capability, wrap it in a quart-size Ziplock bag and stash it in an out-of-the-way place and activate it. Get a second battery for the phone, keep it charged and every few days swap out batteries.

• A monitored home alarm system with tamper-proof sensors on the home’s fence gates, the boat’s console and other major boat’s compartments. This denies thieves the ability to search undisturbed for a tracker and disable it. The monitored home alarm also provides redundant notification of the theft as it is occurring.

• Multiple mechanical devices like chains, locks, boot locks and slab locks. Mr. Cane especially likes the slab locks — devices fixed to the cement slab that the trailer is on that lock around the axle. He also likes redundant mechanical protection. “My whole objective is to make it so difficult and time-consuming for the thief that he’s going to think, ‘This one is going to be tough. I’ll go after something easier.’”

• Ask the neighbors to watch the boat, and reward them with fish. Mr. Cane says it’s also important to have a detailed action plan in case the tracker or home alarm system activates. He will have friends or family make the 911 call (he already has briefed them on what to tell the dispatcher) while he follows the thieves with his cell-phone tracker. He says busy police departments often are slow to respond to a common theft but may respond more quickly if they know a citizen is in hot pursuit — a strategy generally discouraged by police. Mr. Cane says quick response is vital to stop thieves before they strip the boat.