Pirates wreak havoc on San Francisco Bay


Houseboat and yacht residents in the San Francisco Bay have sounded off about increasing incidents of piracy from marauders who are pillaging and plundering their watercrafts.

“The open shoreline of the [Oakland-Alameda] Estuary is littered with sunken wrecks and derelict, end-of-life vessels, and crime has risen to truly intolerable levels,” former harbor master Brock de Lappe said during a San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission enforcement meeting, according to a Monday Fox News Digital report.

“Multiple vessels have been stolen and ransacked. Victims have had to resort to personally confronting the criminals to recover their property without the benefit of police support. Is this appropriate activity for a 79-year-old senior?”

One resident told the outlet she kayaked over to assist a man who was calling for help Tuesday night.

Thieves have been stealing boats or using old, abandoned dinghies to board large ships and yachts in the Oakland-Alameda Estuary, residents say.
Dan Hill
Four Alameda Community Sailing Center powerboats were stolen by thieves after they were docked in the Oakland Harbor area, the center’s owner said.
Dan Hill
Examples of stolen items from one of the ransacked boats in the estuary.
Dan Hill

“They’re yelling, ‘Help me, please, please. Anybody help me.’ And I go out there in my kayak with a headlamp, and there is a sailboat drifting down the estuary, and with my kayak I towed it to shore,” said the woman, who did not reveal her name because she was afraid of retaliation.

The sailor in need was a “panicked and terrified young man” who said pirates had cut his line during a confrontation.

“If there had been any wind at the time I wouldn’t have been able to go out there and rescue this young man who had no motor and no ability to sail that boat,” she reportedly said. 

The troubling piracy trend had struck the Alameda Community Sailing Center, where four of their safety boats, which are worth between $25,000 and $35,000 each, had been stolen or destroyed, Fox Business reported Saturday.

“We cannot run our program without these boats,” owner Kame Richards reportedly wrote in a letter to the municipal commission.

“The response we received from APD [Alameda Police Department] was that they could do nothing, and a warning not to approach the perpetrators if we located our boats” Richards added, claiming that it took 35 hours to get a police report from the cops.

“We called them right after it happened, and they said, ‘Wait, we’ll send an officer.’ It’s dinner time, and there’s still no officer. . . . Then they said they can’t help us, and their best advice is to find the boats but don’t approach the perpetrators,” Richards’s letter stated.

“We declined to heed that advice… We were able to retrieve all of our boats, and another RIB [rigid inflatable boat] that was stolen from the Golden Gate Yacht Club.

“How many replacements of these boats will our insurance company pay for before they drop us? We cannot continue our programs without the RIBs and cannot continue without insurance.”

The episodes were downplayed by police in an interview with Fox News Digital last week.

“Crime is both the perception of crime and the actual presence of crime,” Nishant Joshi, Chief of Alameda PD, said.

“And I say that because although, of the total incidents that are generated in the city of Alameda, less than one percent of those are attributed to all of our marinas.”

Alameda Police Chief Nishant Joshi downplayed reports of plundered boats, saying “less than one percent of crimes” in his jurisdiction happen on the water.
Fox News
Some residents had claimed Oakland’s homeless epidemic was related to the piracy, a conclusion that police said was not supported by evidence.
Seneca Scott

Joshi added police were addressing the piracy complaints with an “increase” of patrols and efforts to “educate” the sea faring community.

Some residents believe the influx of crime in the Oakland Estuary, the channel that separates Oakland from the suburban island community of Alameda, is coming from homeless residents in Oakland.

One person voiced their suspicions last month after noticing more small boats tied up around a homeless camp in the city’s Union Point Park. Oakland, a city of 433,000 is now home to more than 9,700 homeless people, a 22% increase since before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to non-profit EveryOne Home.

“And you wonder, where did they get these boats? Small boats are expensive,” Jamie Camacho said. “Maybe they’re taking what little money they have to buy them, but it’s, you know … I know a lot of friends who have had their small boats disappear and their outboard motors.”

“We’ve not done a deep dive into identifying what particular group in society is committing these crimes,” Joshi said. 

“But I do think that certainly anyone who is in a challenged position will turn to crime when they’re desperate.”

The Oakland Police Department has only one officer trained to operate the police boat tasked with protecting the waterways around the the city.

“Fighting crime out here on the water is tough, as we only have one full-time marine officer, and that’s myself,” Officer Kaleo Albino told CBS Bay Area last month. 

“But the city of Oakland Police Department, we tend to make things work with what we have, and I’ve been training approximately ten other maritime officers on how to operate the vessel. So, the vessel is available more hours than just myself being here.”

The Coast Guard has recently been enlisted to help safeguard the area, San Francisco’s ABC affiliate reported last month.

“In the waterways, it’s very difficult to draw a line,” Joshi said last week. “There are no roadways or fence lines, so we all have a shared interest, much like crime as a whole, to deal with this as a regional approach.”

The beefed up patrols came after ship resident Michael West told CBS he and his neighbors were taking matters into their own hands instead of calling authorities.

“Someone in this marina had to defend themselves with guns against the pirates. And that’s where it is right now,” West said on Sept. 10. 

“Everybody here has a gun or knife or a sword or a stick or something, you know, to protect themselves.”


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