Many victims have yet to claim, or even notice their belongings missing. And once they realize something is gone, like other victims of marine theft, it may be difficult to track down their stolen possessions.
Every boat comes with a hull identification number or HIN, explained Gibson. Vehicles also come with an identification number or VIN. Unlike a VIN there is no system in place that tracks HIN numbers in Canada or the United States. HIN numbers are even more impossible to track when thieves have altered them. HIN numbers appear on a boat in two places, one on the hull and the other in a secret place, depending on the manufacturer. Thieves often know where both HIN numbers are.
When VIN numbers are put through a police system, police can find information on the car—who it is licenced to, the colour, the make, and the manufacturing plant it was built in. However, when the police run an HIN number it only tells them which company manufactured the boat and where it was made.
Serial numbers on engines and expensive fishing equipment work the same way.
Detective Phil Ens, who is spearheading the investigation into the recent stolen marine equipment, says despite the hurdles posed by HIN numbers and marine equipment serial numbers, many pieces of equipment have been returned to their owners.
“One of the major things that we’ve found in this investigation is the importance of registering your warranty for whatever you’re purchasing when it comes to marine equipment,” he said.
Registering a warranty attaches personal information to the sale of an item, making it easier for police to find the owners of stolen property. All 16 motors in Detective Ens’ investigation have been returned as a result of available warranty information.
Detective Ens said there are other ways to improve the recovery of items in the event of theft.
Serial numbers found on rods, downriggers and other fishing equipment can be recorded into your computer, suggested Ens. He also advised engraving a driver’s licence number in a secret place on your belongings or vessel. “A drivers license is simple enough for us to run on our computers right there to see who owns that product.”
For more information regarding stolen boats and marine equipment, visit www.stolenboats.ca.—Marika McKenzie