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

PIX Now Evening Edition
PIX Now Evening Edition 10:32

OAKLAND — The threat of pirates ransacking boats in Oakland Estuary marinas has risen to a new level.

Thefts are becoming more brazen and more costly. Meanwhile, residents said they've given up relying on the police for help.

Steven Young outfitted his boat, the "Bay Escape," to serve as a survival craft in case of a large earthquake or disaster.

ALSO READ: Boats docked at Oakland marina being targeted by pirates

But that plan was sunk recently when thieves stole the 40-foot Sea Ray yacht from its slip at the Embarcadero Cove Marina. They spotted it a few days later, stuck on some nearby rocks, with people still aboard.

Young called the police.

"I told them somebody's on the boat; they're moving it as we speak," recalled Young. "Can you just go down and impound it? The police gave us, 'Well do you have a police report?'  I said, 'No, we just found it. It's grounded; there's people on it. Can you do anything?'  They said, 'We can't do anything. What you need to do is get a police report.'"

Young said the police never came. He said it wasn't until days later, when the insurance company called them, that the boat was recovered. But by then it was too late.

"What they did to the boat was just unbelievable," Young said. "Normally, you'd expect them to take the dinghy and your liquor and stuff like that.  But they took the fishing poles. They took the fighting chairs; they took the barbecue pits. And everything they didn't take, they destroyed."

They stole GPS equipment, bilge pumps, engine parts and three handguns with ammunition.

Closet doors were torn off and every compartment was trashed. They also left behind a number of hypodermic needles and the message "I love Jessie" scrawled in bleach on the couch cushions.

The insurance company said the boat is a total loss, but it's not the only one. Two other large boats were stolen in the same week.

"And then, a few days later, someone in this marina had to defend themselves with guns against the pirates. And that's where it is right now," said Michael West.  "Everybody here has a gun or knife or a sword or a stick or something, you know, to protect themselves."

West lives aboard a ship and said the crime coming from people living on boats anchored out in the estuary has turned the entire area into a Wild West environment. Especially since the city of Oakland has only one man, Officer Kaleo Albino, who knows how to operate the boat to protect the harbors.

"Fighting crime out here on the water is tough, as we only have one full-time marine officer, and that's myself," said Albino.  "But the city of Oakland Police Department, we tend to make things work with what we have, and I've been training approximately ten other maritime officers on how to operate the vessel. So, the vessel is available more hours than just myself being here."

But so far, that hasn't happened, and the people living on the waterfront feel like they're on their own. Young said he's had enough. His boat couldn't survive the earthquake of crime shaking Oakland.

Once the insurance company pays for the loss, he's gone. As for West?  He and his neighbors know this isn't petty crime anymore, so they'll band together to do whatever they must to protect themselves.

"So, we don't even bother to call the police anymore," said West. "See, we're going to handle it ourselves."

There is plenty of crime happening all over Oakland, but those who live on the water feel like castaways on a deserted island, left to fend for themselves with no one coming to rescue them.

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