Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Marine Investigations Unit targets theft

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The unit, part of the Law Enforcement Division’s Special Operations section, will operate on a statewide basis, with nine game wardens assigned to it

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

The unit, part of the Law Enforcement Division’s Special Operations section, will operate on a statewide basis, with nine game wardens assigned to it.

“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 Grahame Jones, chief of Special Operations, in a news release. “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 unit, along with Sgt. Ned Nichols. Williford said 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,” said Williford, in the release. “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 nation-wide. 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.”

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

By TPWD Law Enforcement Division region, the wardens assigned to the new unit (and their office telephone number) include:

Region I

Ryan Hunter — 806-683-6207

Region II

Mike Stephens — 214-632-6107

Clint Borchardt — 817-343-8812

Region III

Turk Jones — 254-534-4212

Tracy Large — 830-660-6553

Region IV

Alan Biggerstaff — 979-412-3101

Robbie Smith — 409-658-4446

Region V

Derek Reeder 361-727-7051

Michael McCall 830-660-9447

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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Will Leschper is founder of The Texas Outdoor Digest. He has been recognized for Excellence in Craft by the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Texas Outdoor Writers Association. He is Conservation Editor of Texas Fish & Game Magazine and is a regular contributor to the Journal of the Texas Trophy Hunters, in addition to writing for plenty of of now-defunct publications.

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