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Boats docked at Oakland marina being targeted by pirates

Oakland marina residents worried as pirates target docked boats
Oakland marina residents worried as pirates target docked boats 03:19

OAKLAND — As Oakland deals with an epidemic of robberies, home break-ins and carjackings, those who live aboard boats along the waterfront said they are facing a threat of their own: an increase in attacks from pirates.

While some may have a romantic notion about pirates, when it comes to theft in Oakland, it's not really that unusual. The same things that are happening on the land are also happening on the water.

UPDATE: Oakland pirates becoming more brazen as several ships stolen in span of a week

"It's every week. Every week somebody's missing something," said marina resident Emmanuel Ievolella. "From their boats or either their dinghies or their outboard motors or from their cars."

The twist is that the thieves are coming by way of the water, operating small boats, usually at night, to steal from the large vessels tied up at the docks. John Fordham's apartment overlooks the water off Jack London Square.

"A couple weeks ago, I saw, for the first time, a high-speed chase on the water with police boats pulling over another boat that was speeding away," he said.

On Monday, Jaime Camacho was salvaging teak wood from some old ship hulls. He said he's noticed a lot more small boats tied up around the homeless camps at Union Point Park.

"And you wonder, where did they get these boats?  Small boats are expensive.  So, I wonder where they're getting them. I don't know," said Camacho. "Maybe they're taking what little money they have to buy them, but it's, you know, I know a lot of friends who have had their small boats disappear and their outboard motors."

Damon Taylor, who maintains a sailboat near the Jack London Aquatic Center, said outboard motors seem to be the real prize.  

"Yeah, the motors are the thing," he said. "You've got to figure a brand new, small 10-horsepower engine is $10,-15,000.  So, even in the black market they can probably get a couple thousand."

And while some are calling for more police response to the area, Taylor takes a pragmatic view.

"They can't handle the land, financially and resource-wise," he said.  "They can't do anything. There's no Oakland Navy."

So, Taylor and his fellow captains do all they can to keep an eye on each other's boats and run off any pirates who may show up, which, he admits, has a nice ring to it.

"I'll go with it.  I think it sounds cool anyway just to say that we have pirates around here," he said.  "Since the Raiders are gone, we've had nothing to get pissed off about.  So, let's go with pirates, then"

But the problem is a serious one. With all the other demands on OPD these days, the department only has one full-time maritime patrol officer. 

So, with thefts increasing in recent weeks, they have reportedly begun night-time patrols along the waterfront. Some call the boats home, and the idea of thieves trying to enter them in the dead of night has a lot of people living in fear.

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