Thieves can have an easy time in stealing items from docked boats. Lake rangers with the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) are fighting back with the aggressive Dock Watch program they have launched this year to take on potential thieves at the MWCD lakes.
MWCD rangers are encouraging owners who dock their boats at an MWCD lake to record an inventory of the boat's equipment and to mark those items with the boat's registration number. An official, free Dock Watch brochure produced by the MWCD will be provided. In return, boaters will receive two free decals to place on boat windows that warn: Criminals Beware: equipment on boat can be identified by police.
John Bird, MWCD's deputy chief-law enforcement, said that protecting boats and boat equipment is a top priority for the conservancy district lake rangers, and that the effort to encourage boaters to mark anything that can be carried off a boat with the registration number can have positive results for all boat owners at the MWCD lakes.
"Boat equipment theft is easy because it is easy to carry off and hard to identify," Bird said. "Thieves can steal boat batteries and portable gas tanks that they sell at a scrap yard, and fishing rods and other equipment are being sold at yard sales, pawn shops or on the Internet.
"Our goals are very simple with the Dock Watch program. We want to catch a thief and we want to stop potential thieves."
MWCD lake rangers also are encouraging boaters to keep an eye out for suspicious people around their boats and for activities that just don't appear to be normal, and then to report those people and/or activities to the closest MWCD park office or county sheriff's office.
The MWCD also is advising boat owners to take valuable equipment home with them, and to lock all items that can fit in cabinets, under seats or in securely fixed storage lockers. Loose equipment should be stored out of sight and outboard motors and gas tanks should be chained and locked to the boat.
"We will be distributing signs to marinas at the MWCD lakes to identify the program and to warn potential thieves," Bird said. "We also are distributing the brochures with space inside to record an equipment inventory and we encourage boaters to fill those out now, along with marking and photographing the equipment on board."
By recording boat registration numbers on items from a boat, police can trace the item to the boat and contact the owner through the registration records.
"Thefts of items from boats hurts everyone who has a boat at an MWCD lake," Bird said. "We want to do everything we can to reduce these thefts and to catch the people who are stealing from the boats. A few minutes of a boater's time may be beneficial for everyone."
The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed, the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio. Since their construction, the 16 reservoirs and dams in the MWCD region have been credited for saving an estimated $10.7 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to the federal government, as well as providing popular recreational opportunities that bolster the region's economy. A significant portion of the reservoirs are managed by the MWCD and the dams are managed for flood-risk management by the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). For more information about the MWCD, visit www.mwcd.org and follow the MWCD on Facebook and Twitter.