A break-in at the Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society boathouse last week has members of the rescue crew wondering if the thief knew what they were looking for.
Volunteers are thankful, however, that the item in question – monocular night-vision goggles worth about $2,600 – was the only thing taken.
“There was a multitude of things that could have been stolen,” said Terry Calveley, society president.
The theft was discovered last Thursday morning after a staff member at Oak Bay Marina noticed the door to the boathouse was open. A sea rescue volunteer who was at the marina on his own vessel checked things out, and realized it had been broken into.
Police say the door of the boathouse was forced open. After gaining entry, the thief managed to open a locked cabinet which contained other valuables. However, only a screwdriver was taken, which was then used to pry open the bow hatch of the rescue crew’s primary vessel, where the night-vision goggles were stored.
“It definitely appears that it was taken by somebody who knew exactly what they were looking for,” said Oak Bay police Deputy Chief Kent Thom.
Items the thief passed over included a handheld GPS unit, binoculars and expensive flotation suits.
Though sea rescue members are relieved nothing else was taken, the investigation has had an effect on their operational capacity.
Their primary vessel was taken out of service for several hours while police gathered evidence at the scene.
The unit has a second night-vision viewfinder, but it’s currently being repaired, meaning the group’s ability to operate at night has been hampered.
“We have some high-intensity spotlights that we use for illuminating water, shoreline and other objects in the water, but obviously that’s just a limited range and we can’t see that far off with them,” said station leader Kim Bentzon.
“The night-vision goggles allow us to pick up the flicker of a flashlight or a small 12-volt light on a vessel quite easily.”
The stolen item, which was stored in a case, resembles a handheld video recorder, Bentzon said.
Calveley said the fact that only a very specific item was taken suggests the thief is familiar with the organization, but added that she doesn’t think it was an inside job.
Oak Bay police are waiting to hear from the Saanich police Forensic Identification Unit whether any evidence was collected from the scene.
In the meantime, sea rescue personnel will likely have to purchase a replacement set of night-vision goggles.