Aransas County Navigation District (ACND) commissioners, at their regular meeting Tuesday, Jan. 21, discussed security issues in and around Rockport Harbor.
At the commissioners’ Jan. 6 meeting Bob McReynolds asked the district to look into security issues at Rockport Harbor, noting one individual was chased off from one of the docks after tapping on boats with an aluminum bat. Commissioners could not discuss the issue at that time because it was not on the agenda.
At Tuesday’s meeting, McReynolds said there have been a couple of more incidents since the last meeting, including Pelican Bait Stand being entered (without authorization) and a woman being approached by an unidentified man as she left the ACND restroom/shower facility at the harbor.
Chairman Malcolm Dieckow said the district knows there is a problem (with the locked gates on the docks).
“We’ve looked at changing locks, and it’s doable,” said Dieckow.
He also said he will talk to Rockport Police Chief Greg Stevens to inquire about increasing patrols in the area.
“The Rockport Police Department (RPD) is a good organization. I think that’s the main thing we can do,” said Dieckow.
He also said anyone seeing any type of suspicious activity should call the RPD immediately, and not try to confront the individual(s).
Harbor Master Keith Barrett said it will cost anywhere between $4,500 and $6,500 to change out the restricted keys and/or locks.
He said getting a new key to each lessee in a timely manner could also be an issue.
The keys that are issued open a gate (there are two locked gates at Rockport Harbor), as well as the restroom.
“If boaters share keys we’ll be back to this (same problem) again in a month,” said Barrett.
He echoed Dieckow’s suggestion about calling the RPD immediately when one witnesses suspicious activity.
“There’s only one way on and off (the docks),” said Barrett. “If they don’t want to come off the normal way, then they have to jump.”
He said liveaboards see things ACND personnel don’t see, and they need to report such activity.
Commissioner Tommy Moore said he is opposed to buying video surveillance equipment.
McReynolds again mentioned the recent incidents at the harbor.
Moore asked why the RPD wasn’t called when the individual was on one of the locked docks with an aluminum bat.
“That’s a good question,” said McReynolds.
Another suggestion made was to install fake cameras around the harbor to discourage any unwanted activity.
Andrew Kane, a member of the audience, said, “If you put up fake cameras, you’ll get sued for fake security.”
Barrett said he asked the district’s IT person about installing video cameras and was told one of the problems with that idea is the Wi-Fi isn’t very strong around the harbor.
McReynolds said his concern isn’t just with the areas covered by the two locked docks, but all areas around the harbor.
“What keeps someone from boarding one of the boats along the bulkhead?” he asked.
Barrett said the ACND staff addresses issues every day.
“Let us know whenever you see something,” he said.
Dieckow said “absolute security” is impossible, but the district will look into re-keying the locks.
An unidentified liveaboard suggested charging for new keys if the ACND changes the locks, or re-keys the locks.
“That will cut down on sharing (keys),” he said. “I’d be willing to pay.”
It was also noted there are other things at the docks that don’t need to be there, including rats.
Barrett said there is a lot of activity around the harbor that brings candy, popcorn, and other foodstuff into the area that attracts rats.
“We’ve put out traps,” he said. “We also at one time had an abundance of cats (living around the harbor).”
Dieckow thanked the individuals for airing their concerns, and noted the district will look into the issue(s) and come up with the best practical solution.
Commissioners then tabled taking any action at this time. They will make a decision at a future meeting after options are presented.