By Joe Capozzi
The thieves rode in on a jet ski.
Under cover of darkness, they boarded boats tied to docks in Ocean Ridge and Briny Breezes and sped off with tens of thousands of dollars in high-end electronic equipment and fishing gear.
In all, 18 pleasure boats were entered between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Dec. 31 by two thieves on a single jet ski, according to images captured by two private surveillance videos, Ocean Ridge Police Chief Richard Jones told The Coastal Star.
Of that total, eight or nine boats were hit in the Briny Breezes Marina, said Michael Gallacher, general manager of Briny Breezes Inc.
The boats were boarded between the Briny Breezes Marina and the canals behind Waterview Drive, Ixora Way, Harbour Drive North/South and Ocean Harbour Estates Canal, Jones said.
One video shows a suspect climbing off the jet ski and entering a boat while another holds onto the sea wall so the jet ski does not float away with the current, he said. No evidence indicates that more than one jet ski was involved.
All but two of the 18 boats either had electronics and fishing gear stolen or wires cut from the equipment. The most popular items stolen were Garmin and Simrad GPS devices and depth finders with a combined value of about $100,000, Jones said.
“The target seems to have been newer, high-end electronics,’’ Gallacher said in an email to residents, noting that GPS devices, radios, scuba gear and other equipment were not removed from smaller boats.
The Ocean Ridge Police Department, which also patrols Briny Breezes, is encouraging all boat owners to lock their hatches and to remove and secure all electronics that are removable from their boats when not in use.
‘‘We are working an active investigation with a couple of identified suspects,’’ Jones told the Briny Breezes Town Council on Jan. 27. “I can’t share any details, but we are working an investigation that may lead to some additional details.’’
Jones called it “extremely unusual’’ for people arriving on personal watercraft to commit crimes in Ocean Ridge.
But he said it’s not uncommon in other waterfront municipalities for thieves to arrive on various watercraft, from small boats to kayaks and paddleboards, many of them stolen.
Although jet skis are loud at full throttle, they can be relatively quiet when idling, which explains why homeowners never heard them.
“It is likely that these suspects use any type of watercraft they can steal to commit these crimes,’’ Jones said. Anyone who has questions or information about these thefts can contact Detective Aaron Choban at 561-732-8331 or email@example.com.
Police also want to hear from residents who may have captured suspicious video images from their home surveillance systems.