Around 200 motor boats have been stolen from lakes in Switzerland this year so far, according to the survey of police theft statistics carried out by news agency ATS.
The first thefts were reported five years ago and the problem has been growing steadily since then, said ATS.
It’s a particular issue on lake Constance, which borders Switzerland, Germany and Austria, where 82 outboard motors have been stolen so far this year, compared with a similar number in the whole of 2013 and up from 35 in 2012.
The cheapest boat stolen was worth around 1,000 euros and the most expensive some 15,000 euros, with the total value estimated at 200,000 euros.
The number of boats stolen across the country varies wildly from canton to canton, but the thieves take their chances wherever they can, stealing from rivers and canals as well as lakes.
The size and weight of the boat is not a determining factor, according to the survey.
While police are occasionally successful in finding the culprits, the highly organized nature of the criminal gangs means multiple prosecutions are difficult.
ATS gives the example of a 26-year-old Romanian who was caught red-handed last year in Lungern, in the canton of Obwalden, and convicted for his crime.
Although police found six stolen boats in his vehicle, the man simply denied everything.
“In that case it wasn’t possible to find any accomplices, even though we believed that he couldn’t have acted alone,” prosecutor Bernhard Schöni told ATS.
Generally thieves are arrested at night, Bern cantonal police told ATS, and the stolen boats are found in hired vehicles from eastern Europe, where most of the thieves originate.
Fribourg police agreed, saying that the majority of culprits are Romanians and Lithuanians who sell the boats on in their home countries.
Owners should equip their boats with anti-theft devices and padlocks, and take photos of the serial number and other characteristics, police told ATS.