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TPWD creates Marine Investigations Unit

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May 22, 2013 | 1,803 views | Post a comment

AUSTIN -- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Law Enforcement Division has formed a new Marine Investigations Unit made up of Texas game wardens who will work to combat boat theft, personal watercraft theft, and related fraud.

The new unit, part of the Law Enforcement Division’s Special Operations section, will operate on a statewide basis. The nine game wardens assigned to the new unit met together for the first time in mid-May for initial training and equipment issuance.

“While all 532 Texas game wardens handle boat and personal watercraft theft as part of their routine duties, we believe this new unit will help TPWD better focus on these high dollar crimes,” said Chief of Special Operations Grahame Jones. “Not only are we interested in apprehending thieves and recovering stolen boats, we think the new unit will be able to proactively prevent some offenses.”

The wardens assigned to the new unit will be the regional contacts for all marine theft, tax fraud, and title fraud investigations, said Capt. Greg Williford, who will supervise the new unit along with Sgt. Ned Nichols. Williford said all wardens will continue working these types of investigations, but will be passing on intelligence to the new unit and otherwise working with the wardens assigned to the unit.

“TPWD handles $47 million a year in boat registration fees,” Williford said. “Unfortunately, it’s pretty tempting for boat owners or thieves to try to dodge registration fees or otherwise commit fraud. And when it comes to boat theft, Texas always ranks in the top three states nationwide. There is only a 10-percent recovery rate compared with roughly 70 percent in vehicle theft. With this new unit, we want to get that boat-recovery percentage heading upward in Texas.”

Anyone with any information regarding boat theft or boat registration fraud in Texas is urged to call the 24-hour Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-792-4263.

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