Residents of Pittwater’s offshore communities have been struck by a spate of boat thefts, six in the last week alone. Locals say theft and property damage at Church Point has been an ongoing issue.
Offshore residents have no road access to their properties and rely on their ‘tinnies’ with outboard motors to access the mainland at Church Point. In the last week, at least two night-shift workers, including a nurse, have returned to find themselves stranded with their boats missing.
The thefts are following a pattern. The boats are tied up at the Church Point Commuter Wharf overnight and found missing in the morning.
They are usually moved around to a beach near the Church Point car park, where locals say the works being conducted by Ausgrid at the southern end are acting to shield the thieves from view as they strip the boats down to the hull, taking motors, batteries and fuel tanks.
Lovett Bay resident Mr Jimmy Arthur said the boat thefts were nothing new but it was particularly bad at the moment. He blamed out-of-area thieves, “They come down and pretend to fish off the wharf, then they paddle a boat around to the beach. They are targeting the 15’s [horsepower engines] because they are easy to lift off the boat. You can’t get two-stroke engines anymore, so the parts are really valuable to steal. It’s midnight spares around here.”
Broken Bay water police, who are based at Church Point, are actively investigating but have been hampered by heavy rains this week which have impacted the ability for forensic analysis of the stolen vessels, according to locals.
Senior Sergeant Mick Morris of Marine Area Command, Broken Bay, was unable to comment on the details of the investigation but said they were taking the current situation very seriously and were motivated to find the culprits.
He advised local boat owners to, “Make it as hard as possible for these guys, take steps to secure the boat and engine, if you can.” Snr Sgt Morris noted this was not a guarantee of safety, as some vessels had been secured when stolen.
Offshore residents say they have been calling for other protective measures such as CCTV and improved lighting. Snr Sgt Morris said police were actively working with Council to improve asset protection at the Commuter Wharf.
Councillor David Walton, a former Police Commander on the Northern Beaches, said, “Criminals are often opportunists, and will target property with less security. I have asked the Northern Beaches Police Area Command to conduct more patrols of the Church Point wharfs and car parks. Residents and owners of the boats need to consider how they can better secure their property and include identification on their property to reduce their on-sale value to criminals and assist police in returning property.”
Pittwater Councillor Ian White, who is a resident of Scotland Island, says there have been constant issues with boat thefts, which he attributes to, “kids getting home after the ferry and water taxi services have stopped.” In these instances, the boats are usually found undamaged the following day, tied up on the island.
Every few years, however, Cr White said there is a problem with ‘theft for profit’, where boats are stolen and stripped for parts. This is what he believes is happening now. He said that Council will be installing CCTV at both the car park and Commuter Wharf, to complement existing CCTV at the Cargo Wharf.
Pittwater Councillor Kylie Ferguson said the problems at Church Point have been long-standing but had worsened recently. She said many incidents go unreported as local residents have become resigned to the issue, concealing the scale of the problem. She urged people to report incidents to police and has asked Council to investigate.
Image: Northern Beaches Advocate