Stolen boats turning up in Cuba, Mexico

- Something big was missing from the backyard of Nancy Guernsey's in-laws: Their 30-foot boat was gone.

"I came over to check to see if the boat was here and it wasn't," she said.  "He said, 'The boat is missing! Call the police!'"

Where it went was a mystery.

"Nothing else seemed to be bothered.  Just the boat," she continued.

As Longboat Key police began investigating, another attempted boat theft was reported.  They also soon discovered that two more boats were stolen in Sarasota and two more in Hillsborough County.

"The number of boats that we have out here put us on high alert," said Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming.

Officers began to suspect a crime ring from Miami that has a knack for stealing boats.  The craft often turn up in Cuba or Mexico.

That is where this missing boat was spotted.

"We learned that there is a group, an organization who's fairly organized, that are stealing boats from Sarasota down to Naples and then across to Miami and up to Ft. Lauderdale," said Chief Cumming.

Investigators said the group is responsible for thefts around Florida.  Fourteen boats were reported stolen from Levy County up north all the way to Monroe County in the Keys.

"This could happen anywhere, especially where we have the number of boats we do along the canals and elsewhere," continued Chief Cumming.

Officers say an easy way to make sure you won't become the victim of a boat theft is to keep your boat locked up and make sure your keys aren't anywhere visible.

"If you can disable the electrical power to the lift system, it would be great.  If you could wire it into your house, that would be even better," offered Officer Dan Bidwell.

Police want everyone to keep their eyes open.

"It is a target of opportunity and if you take away the opportunity, you take away the potential of becoming a victim of a crime," Bidwell added.

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