New ways to prevent boat theft

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 17, 2003

Special to the News-Herald

Editor’s Note: On Aug. 12, The Suffolk News-Herald’s boating safety columnist LCDR Joe DiRenzo III retired from the Coast Guard. Joe’s last duty station was Coast Guard Atlantic Area where he served as the Anti-Terrorism Coordinator, responsible for 40 states and the Caribbean. He is continuing with the News-Herald as our boating columnist and will contribute with feature and sport stories on a more frequent basis.

Last week’s column looked at easy steps you can take to increase the physical security around


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your recreational boat making it tougher on a would be thief. This week we would look at some

identification techniques which you can use that will add law enforcement authorities identify your boat, if it is indeed taken.

nKnow your HIN. Most people realize that their personal vehicle has a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a specific number which is given to your vehicle. You can find this information on your state registration card. It is an important number for law enforcement as they use it to trace stolen vehicles. The same individual marking holds true for vessels. Each vessel is required to have a specific 12-digit Hull Identification Number (HIN) attached on the vessel itself. Besides it being a requirement a HIN provides you the best possible way to help law enforcement identify your vessel. If you have not done so, find the HIN on your vessel and get a picture of it.

What else can you do to help law enforcement if your vessel is stolen? I mentioned pictures above. Photos (especially digital) and video can be extremely valuable. First off, if possible get a series of pictures which show your vessel 360 degrees around. Make sure the registration number is visible. As much of the exterior of the vessel needs to be shown as possible. The new wide-angle pictures are especially good for this.

nSecond, go inside your boat and take pictures of everything. Mounted equipment such as weather fax and radios, the helm, navigation tables, etc should all be shot. Following shooting the actual pictures make three complete sets of prints. Hold one set at your home, provide one set to your insurance agent, and finally provide one set to a relative or close friend.

By taking this extra step you significantly increase the ability to provide law enforcement information they need quickly. Oh, don’t store your set of pictures on the boat – store them at home. Photograph or videotape the interior and exterior of your vessel showing all installed equipment and additional equipment. Open drawers and lockers and photograph interiors and contents. Date and sign the photographs and add any identifying messages.

nThe third and final recommendation, besides photo documentation is to have a complete inventory on everything you have on the vessel.

If you have plates and dishes make sure you have an inventory. Get special binoculars them on the list.

In addition to all the above make sure, if your vessel has outboards have an identification number engraved on them. You can use your HIN, your driver’s license number, etc.

Some insurance companies recommend your social security number (SSN) – I don’t. With identity theft a serious problem in this country the last thing anyone should do is use your SSN as an identifier.

By taking a few easy steps you can make your vessel tougher to steal, and easier to track and return by law enforcement. Until next week…Boat Safe…and Boat Smart!