(The Center Square) – Crime and homelessness have converged in San Francisco to allow homeless individuals media reports have called “pirates” offshore into small, cheap boats that anchor illegally and roam the bay looking for property and even other boats to steal.
According to research by the San Francisco Standard, seven boats were stolen in August in the waters between Alameda and Oakland in San Francisco Bay, while only three were reported stolen, including one 40 foot powerboat stolen with three still-unrecovered guns aboard.
These thefts are attributed to a small cadre of so-called “anchor-outs,” or individuals who illegally anchor their boats offshore. Before 2020, the city of Oakland enforced a stringent policy of removing illegal vessels. After a 2020 court ruling blocked further removals, the city was no longer able to enforce this policy.
With a large number of local boats for sale on Facebook Marketplace under $2,000, living on the water is a viable alternative to living in street encampments for many Bay Area homeless.
The Coast Guard has made a pending case against two individuals, and in a conversation with The Center Square stated that it is increasing patrols in the Oakland Estuary where the criminal anchor-outs allegedly live.
In February 2023, the city of Oakland approved but did not yet have funding a nuisance vessel removal ordinance that prohibits vessels from anchoring for more than 12 hours in Oakland waters. Were the city to not have adopted the measure, which targets a city-estimated “10 to 20 boats illegally anchored in the estuary,” it could have faced “costly enforcement action” by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. However, with funding now available this month, the process of removal could soon begin yet again.
According to a cumulative analysis from McKinsey & Company, there are 38,000 homeless individuals in the 7.5 million-strong Bay Area. Oakland, in whose waters the anchor-outs reside, is home to 5,055 homeless individuals.
Oakland did not respond to any inquiries by the time of publication.