As Oakland police grapple with rising burglaries, robberies and carjackings on land, residents on the water say they’re getting little help and are left on their own to chase out intruders, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Some have discussed arming themselves. Others have ventured out to reclaim their stolen property. In recent months, a malaise has settled over the houseboats and lagoons, as boaters who sought an island lifestyle are suddenly finding themselves terrified. Reviewing calls for service from Alameda County’s 13 marinas, Police Chief Nishant Joshi found a slight decrease in calls for service from Aug. 23, 2022, to the same date this year. He also noted that this year, fewer of those calls generated a police report, and that the marinas account for less than 1% of the city’s total calls. “Our community members who live on the water are vulnerable,” the chief said. “To know that somebody can access their backyard because their backyard is a waterway, that can be alarming, it can be troubling, it can be frustrating. That level of intrusiveness definitely isn’t going to align with raw numbers.”
Alameda County maintains a part-time maritime unit to patrol the waterways, though its officers are assigned to other duties. Oakland has one full-time maritime patrol officer, Kaleo Albino, who said he’s observed thefts spiking in the estuary over the past six weeks and has organized night patrols to help quell it. “They’re just taking advantage of our response times,” Albino said, referring to the difficulty of tracking down perpetrators. Now, the harbors are losing business, with slips left vacant as people become reluctant to store boats at known burglary hot spots. “It’s almost the Wild West,” said Steve Meckfessel, managing investor at the Marina Village Yacht Harbor in Alameda. “It’s almost as if you were on a ship and there are pirates out there, and there’s no government, no one to protect you.” Marina residents believe the “pirates” live in the half-dozen encampments scattered along the estuary, or on “anchor-out” vessels that are illegally moored on the water, though there is no hard evidence that homeless people are perpetrators.