Squatter pirates flushed from vacation spot as authorities crack down on ‘disgusting’ water pollution

 Fox News Digital has learned that vagrants are increasingly moving aboard abandoned boats parked along the coast this winter in South Florida, a new illegal "phenomenon" that came to the attention of the local sheriff's office just last year. .

"It's a 2023 announcement. We've had a homeless, stray population here in Martin County for a long time. Not huge, but we have people who are moving temporarily. And we have the abandoned ship issue .These were two separate problems," Chief Deputy John Budenciak told Fox News Digital in a Zoom interview this week.

“But as our maritime deputies began citing, tagging and removing these vessels, they discovered last year that many of these vessels were inhabited by vagrants,” he added.

Late last year, local media began reporting on an increase in the number of vagrants visiting abandoned boats and how the Martin County Sheriff's Office was working to remove boats and squatters, or bring some abandoned boats up to code. Was doing. Abandoned boats are defined as vessels found in waterways with at least two violations, which can range from no motor to leaking fuel. Dumping abandoned boats is a state crime that can lead to jail time or a fine.

Martin County is located in South Florida on the state's east coast, about 40 miles north of Palm Beach. Budencik told Fox News Digital that the area is a hot spot for boaters, fishermen and tourists, with many yachts traveling through the area to the Bahamas and back.

"A byproduct of having so many ships in our area is that some of these ships deteriorate badly and become inoperable. And as they become operable, some of these owners will abandon them or they will will be sold to someone who does not re-register the ship. In return those people remain on these boats or drive these ships until they become completely unusable. And they sink or Fuel leaks, if they have the capacity to carry fuel, or they leak human waste and they become a real threat to us environmentally," he said.

Although abandoned boats have long been an issue in the area, the deputy chief said that in the past year, the number of abandoned boats has only increased. He said as 2023 approached, the Sheriff's Office counted at least 50 boats abandoned in the past year, resulting in all of them being cited by authorities. Twenty-nine of the 50 boats were recaptured and destroyed, while the remainder were brought into compliance.

Budenciak clarified that the people on the boats are not mostly homeless people who are working to find jobs and get off the streets. Instead, they are described by the Deputy Chief as vagrants, often drug addicts, suffering from mental illness and not trying to get out of the mess.

Overall the vagrant population appears to be transitory. Unfortunately in South Florida, strays come from northern communities where it is cold this time of year. We get a lot of people coming to them and we try our best, but they have the right to do certain things…. So we want them to be successful, but we don't want them to come in and ruin the quality of life of people who are working hard, paying taxes and especially in this case, keeping our waterways safe. And trying to keep it clean,” he said. ,

Budenciak said distinguishing a dilapidated boat from an abandoned boat inhabited by squatters is a difficult task.

He said, "It's hard to differentiate. There are a lot of ships that are working and that have people living on them, you and I may not live on them, but they are habitable."

The Sheriff's Office is on a mission to dispose of abandoned boats, or bring them up to code, and works with the U.S. Coast Guard to test boats anchored outside the area's water channels to see if they are up to code. Are you in or not?

“We're going around and testing these boats that are anchored right outside our channels, and testing means going and making sure their lights are working, so you can see them at night. If you're trying to go through our waterways," he said.

One surefire way to tell if a boat is abandoned is to test if a ship is leaking sewage into the water, Budencik said.

"What's really a concern for us environmentally is that most of them don't have functional bathrooms. So what we find happening here in our county, we have these vagrants who are sitting on boats "And they're going straight into our estuaries, into our oceans and into our rivers," he said.

“Environmentally, this is an abominable problem that we are dealing with, and we are making every effort to identify who these people are, what ships they are on, cite them, remove them and return them to our Take it away from the beaches, off our shores," she said.

He said authorities pour dye into the toilets of suspected abandoned boats to see if it is leaking into the water.

"They're also testing them with dye... They're running this dye through the toilet systems in the boats. And if the dye comes out into the water, we know that boat is not OK and that's really Sewage is leaking into our estuary," he said.

Reports of people sitting at home have increased across the U.S., including Florida, since the pandemic, though Budencik said the issue hasn't affected his community as it has others. Instead, the office is dealing with boat occupants as well as people visiting Martin County in RVs.

When asked if the problem of illegal land occupation in general had increased in recent months, he said, "We have not, we only have a few cases." , it's the same kind of thing we're dealing with with these cruisers, where they live in the RV until the RV stops working. Then they leave it on the roadside,” he said, adding that illegal squatters taking over abandoned boats is a “new phenomenon”.

Removal and destruction of abandoned boats comes at a steep price: anywhere between $7,000 and $40,000. Budenciak said the money to pay for removals is not taken from the resident's tax base, but from boater registration fees. A portion of boater registration fees is set aside specifically for the purpose of removing abandoned boats "to make our waterways an attractive place for our residents and the people who come here to enjoy our waterways," he said. .

Budenciak said his office is working with state agencies and the Coast Guard to remove abandoned boats or bring them up to code, to ensure local officials make Martin County "a safer and more accessible place for boating." Committed to creating a “beautiful place”.

"They use our local ordinances to deal with the problem we have. We don't do it alone. We do it with our state resources, DEP, Department of Environmental Protection, they help us with some of these environmental issues. Let's do it. The Coast Guard is always available to come with us. So we are working at the local level, at the state level and then at the federal level to tackle this issue and make our community a safer and more beautiful place to go boating. Making space,” he said.

1 comment:

  1. If the main problem with these boats is raw feces, why not offer boar owners a marine composting toilet to bring them into compliance? Top quality units are less than a grand. I'm sure the EPA would be happy to help fund such a program. Or would that make to omuch sense?


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