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Lake crime can hit docks hard
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Forsyth County News

The lake’s up and the economy’s down. Could that spell more thefts from boat docks?

Jean Kuehn thinks it’s possible.

Someone stole a table off her 18-foot pontoon boat and swiped a trolling motor from her brother’s boat on the small inlet in the Waterside subdivision near Cool Springs Road.

“I really think you’re going to see more of that,” said Kuehn, whose dock in northwestern Hall County has been hit by thieves three times in the past three years. “People have to be vigilant.”

Property crime on the lake makes up a small percentage of the overall number of thefts investigated by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Col. Jeff Strickland said.

“They do occasionally occur, but it’s not something that’s rampant,” he said.

Forsyth County Sheriff's Capt. Frank Huggins said such crimes on this side of the lake are not prevalent, though they do occur.

"We have probably more incidents of thefts from personal docks than we do from the marinas," he said.

"And what we have are things like personal water craft being stolen and stuff like that ... we are fortunate that it's not a major crime problem."

Boat radios, global positioning units, fishing tackle and other items small enough to carry off but valuable enough to attract thieves are usually what gets taken.

Hall County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Robinson estimates boat dock thefts are committed “50-50” by people in boats and crooks approaching from land.

Robinson patrols Lake Lanier in the sheriff’s 23-foot marine patrol boat, where he looks out for suspicious activity on private boat docks and has helped catch burglary suspects who fled to the shores of the lake.

The boat was bought by the sheriff’s office three years ago with grant money from the U.S. Department of Homeland security and is used for patrols nearly year round.

Robinson said one of the best deterrents to thieves that boat dock owners can get is a solar-powered motion detection light.

“Believe me, when the light goes on, they’re leaving that dock,” he said.

After a few years of receding lake levels brought on by the drought, Lanier finally returned to full pool in October, the first time in more than four years it was at 1,071 feet above sea level.

Boat traffic is expected to pick up as a result.

“We anticipate a lot heavier use of the lake this year over last,” Strickland said.

Staff Writer Julie Arrington contributed to this report.