Crime gangs selling to Eastern Europe

Organised crime gangs stole a staggering £70 million worth of outboards in Europe last year. There is a huge black market for the engines, especially in Eastern European countries, police say.

Now marine police in Essex have launched a crafty security scheme that aims to reduce outboard motor thefts and catch coastal crooks.

Det Con Simon Lofting of the Marine Unit said that 53 outboard motors worth a total of £166,000 were stolen in Essex last year.

The force’s marine unit based at Burnham-on-Crouch is now selling a special outboard motor cover as part of a plan to make engines less attractive to thieves when boats are left unattended on moorings or stored ashore.

The idea is to urge boat owners to take their motor’s cowling home and replace it with a fabric cover. The cover will protect the engine parts but will devalue the motor in the eyes of a thief who might have to spend hundreds of pounds for a new cowling in order to make the motor work again.

And any thief who does steal a disabled engine and tries to find a replacement cowling will trigger an evidence trail that police can act upon whenever he tries to buy one from an engine dealer.

The fabric covers are in three sizes for outboards under 10hp (£11.50), from 10-40hp (£12.50) and from 40-90hp (£35).

The covers are easy to fit and are secured to the engine with a pull tight rope and adjusting strap and buckle that can be fitted with a padlock.

Covers also include the Essex Police logo and contact details for the force’s Marine Watch scheme under which enthusiasts submit their boat and gear details to a police database.

Marine unit officer Pc Dawn Smith, who launched the covers scheme, said: “It is a very simple concept but has been proved to be effective after being started by Norfolk police. We contacted the same supplier and have been selling the covers at cost price since mid April. They are selling well.

“By providing the covers and working closely together with boat owners and the marine trade we hope to combat thieves who are wrecking people’s enjoyment of the sea and waterways by stealing outboard motors.

“Essex has a huge number of coastal and inland boating sites where outboards are used and we hope motor owners will use the covers and register with our Marine Watch scheme so that we can keep the engines out of the clutches of thieves.”

“The thieves tend to go for the larger outboards from 40hp upwards and costing from £8,000 to £15,000. They are being removed from boats left on moorings and also boats onshore.

“We urge all boat users to be on guard and report any suspicious activity on the water, especially by small vessels fitted with lifting equipment that might be behaving strangely among moored boats. Marina users should also be vigilant and watch out for suspicious strangers looking at boats or making enquiries about buying a boat.”

To order an engine cover or to join Marine Watch contact Pc Dawn Smith or PCSO Susie Smith on 01621 782121 or email