AUSTIN – Since its formation a year ago, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Marine Theft Investigations Team has recovered more than 100 stolen boats valued at some $800,000.
Made up of Texas game wardens, the Law Enforcement Division team works to combat boat theft, personal watercraft theft and related fraud. The nine game wardens assigned to the team focus on marine theft-related investigations roughly 25 percent of their time. The rest of the time, they perform the regular duties associated with their area.
Texas ranks in the top three states nationwide with low stolen boat recovery rates when compared to vehicle thefts. With this new team, TPWD law enforcement officials expected the boat recovery percentage in Texas to increase and it has. In addition to the 100-plus recovered boats, wardens in the unit have worked more than 200 boat registration fraud cases.
“I am most proud that this team conducted over 390 case assists with other game wardens and law enforcement agencies,” said Col. Craig Hunter, TPWD Law Enforcement Division Director. “Successful law enforcement depends on teamwork -- both internally and externally, and this program defines teamwork.”
The team has received extensive specialized training and has also provided marine theft training to hundreds of officers from other agencies across Texas.
“I believe the team has effectively shown the importance of having investigators dedicated to marine theft investigations,” said Special Operations Capt. Greg Williford. “You know you are being effective when the investigators recover stolen boats the same week they are reported stolen. In the past, these boats may have gone undetected for years.”
Anyone with any information regarding boat theft or boat registration fraud in Texas is urged to call the 24-hour Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-792-4263.