Boat thefts on the rise in Pinellas County

Posted at 6:01 PM, Mar 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-23 19:26:09-04

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has seen a rise in vessel thefts in the past few years. 

Deputies with the sheriff’s office tell us this is likely because thieves are making it easier to steal key parts of the boat that are worth some high dollars. 

In the past three years the department has seen the numbers go up:

  • In 2015 — 24 boats
  • In 2016 — 28 boats
  • And in 2017 — 35

They say some of those numbers may include jet skis, and other watercrafts too.

John Killingsworth had his 24” Yamaha powerboat stolen on the March 12 in Valrico at a storage facility. 

“We only had it seven months,” he said, “so it was like the wind gets knocked out of you.”

As the days go on, Killingsworth says the chance of finding it are slim.

“From what I’ve been told and what I’ve read it’s gone within 24 to 48 hours.”

Deputies with the sheriff’s office say they think the numbers are going up because of how easy it is to strip the boats for their electronics, expensive motors and pieces before being dumped. 

Killingsworth is going through the insurance process and says he plans to get a GPS tracker on whatever boat he gets next. 

“So, anytime it starts moving, you can get a text straight to your phone.”

Detectives say one setback is boat owners only documenting their boat — not writing down each serial number to each gadget or electronic on board. 

Those numbers may be the best way to track what’s stolen after a boat is stripped and tossed away. 

Most of the boats being taken from the Pinellas County area are still headed towards south Florida.