Residents living on houseboats and yachts in the San Francisco Bay resorted to physically fighting off seafaring bandits who are ransacking their ships, former harbor master Brock de Lappe said.
Another woman said she rescued a man whose sailboat drifted into the bay without a motor or any way to get back to shore after one of the “pirates,” which is what the resident call the burglars, cut his boat line during an argument.
“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,” de Lappe said during a municipal meeting.
“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?”
Since the summer, burglars have been using small boat homes to raid yachts and houseboats in the Oakland-Alameda Estuary, which is populated by marinas with over 3,000 slips, to steal anything of value.
Then they either sink the ships or dump whatever is left of the boats miles away in the Oakland Harbor or along its shorelines.
Several residents in the area shared personal anecdotes about the dire situation during Wednesday’s San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s (BCDC) enforcement meeting.
“I have asked the BCDC if there is any other issue that currently poses a greater threat to San Francisco Bay,” de Lappe said. “I was told no. This is the top problem.”
WATCH RESIDENT CHASE THE BANDITS
One person, who spoke anonymously because she’s afraid of retaliation, said Tuesday night she heard “faint calls” from the distance in the estuary when it was “pitch black.”
“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,” the anonymous woman said.
On board was a “panicked and terrified young man,” who told her one of the so-called “pirates” cut his sailboat line during an argument.
“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 said.
WATCH: SURVEILLANCE FOOTAGE OF THE HARBOR BANDITS
Mary Spicer, who founded a group of volunteers that has been cleaning the estuary since 2017, canceled their cleanup this year “because of safety concerns” from a particular homeless encampment, where she said there have been violent incidents.
“Unfortunately, I don’t feel comfortable bringing children to the site until those are addressed by the city of Oakland,” Spicer said.
Where are the bandits coming from?
Residents and the local municipal commission said the “pirates” are part of Oakland’s exploding homeless crisis that has overflowed into the waterways.
The city of Alameda, which is an island with a population of just under 80,000, is rated as one of the best suburbs to live in, according to niche.com.
“Living in Alameda offers residents an urban suburban mix feel, and most residents rent their homes,” niche.com says. “In Alameda, there are a lot of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks… The public schools in Alameda are highly rated.”
Meanwhile, its neighbor across the water, Oakland, is rippled by homelessness, which a neighborhood advocate told Fox News Digital in a previous interview has made the city “unlivable.”
Law enforcement’s response
Alameda Police Chief Nishant Joshi told Fox News Digital that his department is working with the Oakland PD and the Coast Guard, which has a base in the estuary, to curtail this issue by taking “a regional approach.”
“In the waterways, it’s very difficult to draw a line,” Joshi told Fox News Digital in an interview Monday.
“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 partnerships are vital, the police chief said, because Alameda doesn’t have its own marine unit and lost about 30% of its police department from years of attrition.
While they replenish their ranks, Alameda Police are working with Oakland PD, which has a marine unit, to make sure there are eyes on the area around the clock.
“We have officers that are trained to handle marine patrols, and we stepped up a standing additional patrol in our marinas,” Joshi said.