Highly organised gangs are targeting coastal areas and stealing equipment, especially powerful outboard motors, to be re-sold abroad, gardaí believe.
The Mizen peninsula has been among the areas worst affected in recent years. Operating in an almost military fashion, thieves conduct recces before they strike.
Mizen Coastal Watch, set up by Schull-based Sergeant James O’Donovan and his colleagues, aims to heighten awareness among the public and vessel owners alike, especially as summer is also a peak season for thefts.
It will focus on multi-agency co-operation and an email alert system which can also be used by the public.
Up to 1,000 boats and marine leisure crafts can be moored and docked at pontoons in the Mizen over the summer months.
Furthermore, this does not take into account boats or leisure equipment brought into the area for a short period of time.
The Mizen Coastal Watch will involve members of Cork County Council, the RNLI, Irish Water Safety, Schull Inshore Rescue, Schull Community Council, Coast Guard, Crookhaven and Schull sailing clubs, Fastnet Marine Outdoor Education Centre, boatyard owners and the public.
The scheme was launched by Bantry-based Superintendent Brendan Fogarty, who said the importance of bonds between all the agencies along the peninsula would enhance both promoting water safety and reducing the opportunities for marine-related thefts.
Cork West Garda Division crime prevention officer Sergeant Ian O’Callaghan said the initiative will increase awareness among boat owners, hamper thefts of marine equipment, and offer good advice on protection of property.
Sgt O’Donovan said the new coastal watch system was based on an email alert system. Crime prevention literature relating to boating and outboard security has been distributed electronically to marine centre outlets and local shops.
He said there will be a two-way communication flow where gardaí will encourage the public to contact them about suspicious activities.