Coast Guard asks public to help find stolen buoy bells off Maine’s coast

The space in which a sound signaling brass bell typically hangs on this offshore buoy is empty after the bell was stolen, off the coast of Maine. Stealing a sound signaling device off a buoy is a federal offense and can be punishable with heavy fines or even imprisonment. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

The space in which a sound signaling brass bell typically hangs on this offshore buoy is empty after the bell was stolen, off the coast of Maine. Stealing a sound signaling device off a buoy is a federal offense and can be punishable with heavy fines or even imprisonment. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

BOSTON — The Coast Guard is asking the public for information on the theft of brass sound signaling devices stolen from buoys off Maine’s coast over the previous six months.

The brass gongs and bells were attached to buoys to help mariners navigate safely during times of reduced visibility. They play a vital role in the safe passage of ships and mariners.

It is thought the high-dollar devices are being stolen and sold to nautical novelty shops or scrap metal yards. Federal officials are working closely with local law enforcement, shops, and scrap yards to identify perpetrators and reclaim the missing property.

Tampering with aids to navigation is a federal offense and can lead to fines up to $25,000 per day or up to one year in prison. Anyone with information leading to a conviction are eligible to receive up to one half of the fine imposed.

“These thefts not only reduce the reliability of our aids to navigation system and put lives at risk, but they also create a burden and expense to the tax payer for the buoy tenders and crews responsible for maintaining the aids,” said Lt. Matthew Odom, Coast Guard Sector Northern New England’s waterways management division chief.

Anyone with information regarding the missing sound signaling devices are urged to contact the Sector Northern New England command center at 207-767-0303.

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