Watercraft Theft in the U.S.

Watercraft Theft in the U.S. Analysis

Frank Scafidi

May 19, 2009

Watercraft Theft and Recoveries in the United States

Don't Let Boat Theft Sink Your Vacation Plans

DES PLAINES, Ill.—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 January 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 which includes personal safety while on the water as well as theft prevention.  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

"I’ve heard it said the happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day when he or she buys a boat and the day it’s sold. Then certainly the saddest day in a boat owner’s life is when a boat gets stolen,” said Joe Wehrle, NICB president and chief executive officer.  “Enjoy your watercraft.  Follow recommended maintenance schedules and have the appropriate level of insurance to protect you from financial loss due to accident or theft.”

The complete report can be downloaded at www.nicb.org under “Hot Topics”.  (Report link provided above)

NICB’s boat theft awareness brochure is available at the following link: Boat Theft Brochure.  The complete list of prevention tips and a useful marine equipment identification checklist are available at the following links: Prevention Tips and Marine Identification Checklist

*Watercraft include but are not limited to pontoon boats, dinghies, rowboats, canoes, personal watercraft (PWC), sailboats, speedboats, powerboats and kayaks.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau:  headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through information analysis, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness.  The NICB is supported by more than 1,000 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations.  NICB member companies wrote nearly $343 billion in insurance premiums in 2008, or more than 82 percent of the nation’s property/casualty insurance.  To learn more visit www.nicb.org.