From the Archives: A Burglar’s Eye View of Boating

In December 1961, Boating Industry took a unique approach to talking about preventing theft in your boat dealership or marine supply business. Included in that issue was “A Burglar’s Eye View of Boating,” a first-person account by Michigan inmate No. 89218 — AKA Edward Anderson, serving a term at Jackson State Prison after being convicted of burglary.

During my ten years as a professional burglar I became a “silent partner” in more than two hundred
boat and marine supply stores. This, of course, was without the owners’ consent and very much at their expense. I made good money at it and would still be doing it if the law hadn’t nailed me — but I didn’t have any monopoly on it. I was only one among a growing number of thieves specializing in marine burglary. And owners who don’t want to chance a whopping loss would do well to make note of it. …

I devoted my own larceny exclusively to four types of merchandise: outboard motors, electronic equipment (small boat radar, depth finders, marine radios), skin diving gear, and boats. … The cars I used were always equipped with roof racks to make such thefts easier. And I always had a trailer hook, too. I found a surprising number of dealers who thoughtfully left display boats on trailers sitting outdoors overnight.

Disposing of the loot never presented any problems. By frequenting the most respectable docksides and letting it be known that I had to sacrifice a boat or a motor, I had plenty of customers coming to me. I also ran nice tempting ads in the papers. And if I happened to be selling hot Evinrudes and a customer wanted Johnson I wasn’t at all adverse to guaranteeing delivery on merchandise I hadn’t gotten around to stealing yet. Business was always brisk because my prices were far below retail value- — so  far below on some occasions that I suspect my customers must have had as much larceny in their hearts as I did. …

Of course there are certain hazards in any business, even burglary. On one occasion I almost ended my career trying to make what looked like a perfect score at a small marina. The place didn’t have a single alarm on it, there was no watchman, and I was able to open a side door by the simple expedient of kicking it. This trip I was after motors, so I took four 18 hp jobs and put them in the bottom of a boat conveniently docked nearby. It’s better than job benefits or a guaranteed annual wage when your victim furnishes your getaway vehicle like that. Everything would have been dandy if I’d stopped right there, but I’d spotted a beautiful 10 hp model that was too good to leave behind.

With that one last motor on my shoulder, I stepped off the dock and into the boat . . . and the whole miserable works went down by the stern, dumping me straight to the bottom like a man with a 10 hp motor on his shoulder.

I wrenched my back getting rid of the motor, nearly drowned myself, and if I had been caught, they probably would’ve had me up for barratry with all the other charges. Things like that are almost enough to make a man want to go straight.

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