Organised gangs stealing boat motors

ORGANISED gangs are targeting the Essex coast to steal outboard motors from moored boats.

Roddy Ashworth

ORGANISED gangs are targeting the Essex coast to steal outboard motors from moored boats.

Police officers have launched a new security scheme they hope will deter raiders from stealing the engines, which can cost up to �15,000 each.

Last year more than 50 motors -with an estimated value of �166,000 - were stolen from craft either on waters or being stored in Essex.

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Det Con Simon Lofting of the force's Marine Unit said: “It is a major problem throughout Europe and organised crime gangs are believed to be responsible for most of the thefts.

“Last year motors worth 70 million euros were stolen in European countries.

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“There is a huge black market for the engines. The thieves tend to go for the larger outboards from 40hp upwards and costing from �8,000 to �15,000.

“They are being removed from boats left on moorings and also boats onshore.”

The marine unit, based at Burnham-on-Crouch, is now selling a special outboard motor cover as part of a plan to make engines less attractive to criminals.

The scheme encourages boat owners to take their motor's cowling home and replace it with the fabric cover.

The fabric then protects the engine parts but devalues the motor in the eyes of a thief, who might have to spend hundreds of pounds for a new cowling in order to make the motor work again.

The fabric covers are in three sizes for outboards under 10hp (�11.50), from 10-40hp (�12.50) and from 40-90hp (�35).

They are easy to fit and are secured to the engine with a pull tight rope and adjusting strap and buckle that can be fitted with a padlock.

The covers also include the Essex Police logo and contact details for the force's Marine Watch scheme under which enthusiasts can submit their boat and equipment details to a police database.

Marine unit officer Pc Dawn Smith, who launched the covers scheme, said: “It is a very simple concept but has been proved to be effective after being started by Norfolk police.

“We contacted the same supplier and have been selling the covers at cost price since mid April. They are selling well.

“By providing the covers and working closely together with boat owners and the marine trade we hope to combat thieves who are wrecking people's enjoyment of the sea and waterways by stealing outboard motors.”

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