Police offer limited amnesty to boat looters
File photo by Ralph Stewart
Edgartown police are investigating the looting of a sailboat that drifted for 54 days and landed on Norton Point Beach last week, after her owner, Bill Heldenbrand, abandoned her in a storm southwest of Bermuda. [ Adrift 54 days, boat comes ashore on Martha's Vineyard ]
Police ask people who took the property to return it in the next 24 hours to avoid prosecution.
On Saturday, Mr. Heldenbrand notified the Edgartown harbormaster that he owned the vessel, ironically named Running Free, and intended to salvage the boat. He arrived in Falmouth Tuesday and inspected the vessel on Norton Point Beach Wednesday. He reported the theft of his possessions to police after inspecting the boat.
"There may have been some confusion about maritime law," Det. Sgt. Chris Dolby said. "Once the owner notified authorities he owned the boat, it's owned property."
Sergeant Dolby said some people were under the mistaken impression that they were entitled to claim property from the abandoned boat. He said he is offering them a chance to return the property to its owner.
The detective said anyone who returns property in the next 24 hours will not be charged. He added that he has already recovered a small amount of property looted.
"After 24 hours, we'll treat it like a larceny," he said.
Sergeant Dolby said he got some leads from Facebook, where people who looted the boat posted pictures of the equipment they took.