Boat inspection funds stolen from collection boxes
July 15, 2009
LAKE TAHOE – About $10,000 has been stolen from boating fee collection boxes in recent weeks at two Nevada state parks, prompting officials to keep a more watchful eye around the lake.
Thieves broke into boxes at Sand Harbor State Park and Cave Rock on Tahoe’s East Shore three times, said Lake Tahoe Nevada State Parks Supervisor Jay Howard.
The most recent theft occurred the night of July 5 at Sand Harbor, and was discovered Monday, July 6, according to a Washoe County Sheriff’s Office report. A previous theft occurred at Cave Rock on Saturday, July 4.
Those two accounted for the bulk of the missing $10,000, Howard said. Thieves also stole $200 in an incident about three weeks ago at Sand Harbor.
“We’re pretty bummed out about the break-ins because that money goes to keeping the invasive mussels out of Lake Tahoe,” Howard said. “That money goes to the inspectors’ salaries, and if we can’t have inspectors, we can’t keep our boat launches open.”
According to the WCSO report, the steel drop box at Sand Harbor was smashed.
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Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jim Halsey said the padlock on the Cave Rock box was cut. He said the case isn’t being investigated due to a lack of leads, but Douglas County deputies patrol the area more frequently now. A $500 reward is available for any tips leading to the successful prosecution of a suspect, Halsey said.
Officials with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office say the crimes are under investigation by the detective’s division, though calls weren’t returned as of press time Tuesday.
The boat launch fees can range from $10-$40, depending on the size of the boat. Those fees are turned over to the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, which pays for inspectors to check boats for invasive species.
Kim Boyd, invasive species program manager for TRCD, said the lost funds won’t affect service this year and may be covered by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s insurance policy.
As of Tuesday, Dennis Oliver, TRPA spokesman, said it is unclear whether or not the money is insured.
Grants are funding the inspections this year, Boyd said, but TRCD is collecting funds to pay for inspections in future years, when the grant funding runs out.
“This money is the money that’s needed to keep the inspections going,” Oliver said. “Whoever stole this needs to realize they stole from the lake – it’s a pretty low blow.”
Howard said changes are under way to decrease the likelihood criminals could break into the boxes again.
“We’ve instituted new procedures and are collecting the money from the boxes more often to decrease the chances of this happening again,” said Howard, who wouldn’t elaborate on how often money was collected from the boxes preceding the incidents.
Oliver said Tuesday that TRPA and State Parks have since made an agreement where parks employees will collect the cash each night to decrease the likelihood of future thefts.
“We need to see if there is a better way to handle that cash,” Oliver said. “It maybe wasn’t being picked up as often as it should have been.”