Last week, our boat was broken into while in storage ‘on the hard’.
We’re currently nearly a 1000 miles away from the boat, traveling by van and staying with family in the St. Louis area.
As we were settling in for the evening to watch a cop show (ironically), we got a motion alert on our Blink cameras we left behind to monitor things.
We had actually been getting these, usually just a yard cat getting aboard and checking things out. So we decided to pick up our phone and say good night to the kitty.
Much to our surprise, we saw a skinny dude on our cockpit looking for a way into the boat.
Just about as soon as we saw him, he rips the camera off the wall and throws it to the ground.
Our first thought was… IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?!?
Then it was CALL THE POLICE.
Soon after one of our inside cameras started reporting motion and we saw the intruder head first thing to the fridge, before he saw the camera and turned it around too. But our cameras are wireless with two-way audio.
Chris very sternly said ‘GET OFF OUR BOAT – The police have been called and are inbound’.
But in reality, we hadn’t yet figured out how to even contact the local police.
We knew that calling 911 from our cell phone would reach the dispatch local to us currently (that’s how 911 is programmed). So we thought it best to try to call the police department local to where our boat was.
I googled the town’s name and found the number. With shaky hands, I dialed it.. and got a recording that said ‘If it’s after midnight, please leave a message and we’ll get back to you after 7am – or if this is an emergency or crime in progress, call 911’.
It was currently 1am on the east coast, where the boat is.
We weren’t sure yet this was an emergency worth calling our local 911 for, but we knew that was an option.
We also called the boat yard, in case in they had any after hours emergency instructions – they did not.
In searching around, I learned that each local dispatch actually has a real 10-digit phone number that e911 is programmed to forward to. It actually has a name – PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point).
But that number isn’t always readily available to the public – sometimes it’s a closely guarded secret only available to top authorities.
In fact, the tip I kept encountering was to obtain that number if you feel you might ever have need to reach 911 from outside the area – such as for calling for help for a loved one, or cases like ours.
So I went to the next resource we have at our finger tips – a social media following.
I posted to our Facebook Page asking for help on how to reach 911 for a locality you’re not currently in. A lot of fellow late night folks chimed in – everything from ‘call the non-emergency number’ (umm.. already did?) to ‘Call your local 911, they can help’.
Meanwhile, Chris kept hunting for a direct dispatch number and thought he found one. He dialed it, and it turned out to be for a city of the same name in a different state. The dispatcher was super friendly and said this happens ALL the time. She had the direct county dispatch number at the ready – and gave it to us.
And that got us through, and a Sergeant from the police department nearby our boat was on the phone with us in minutes .. and they were onboard to find no one there and no visible damage.
It seems Chris’ firm warning to the intruder that the police were on the way worked – and he fled the scene.
In the course of the evening, we learned a few things:
- If you’re leaving property behind or have loved ones in different cities than you – obtain the PSAP for the local dispatch center. Just in case. Call the non-emergency number for the local police or sheriff’s office during regular business hours and explain your situation – and maybe they’ll give you the number. Trying to find this information in the heat of the moment is extra stressful.
- If you find yourself in such a situation and can’t locate the direct dispatch number, it seems the general consensus is that calling your local 911 is acceptable. They might be able to help get you in touch, as the national PSAP directory is available to all law enforcement agencies. But it can be hit or miss by dispatch center if they subscribe to the directory, or are willing to look it up.
- Several emergency workers who chimed in on our thread indicated that if you think it’s an emergency, it’s an emergency – and you should call 911 or dispatch.
- Having a remote monitoring system was definitely worth the small investment. We had just recently purchased a 3-pack of Blink cameras on Amazon Prime Day. We left them running connected to one of our cellular data plans during Hurricane Dorian, and when we decided to take an extended RV trip. They also can give us temperature alerts, which is great for monitoring Kiki’s comfort when we’re away. The two way communication was enough to get the intruder off the boat .. at least in this case.
- Boats are notoriously easy to enter, even while locked up, without damaging anything.
After we had confirmation from the police and had a case number, we sent everything to our yard manager – including the footage recorded from our cameras.
He apparently read it even before arriving to work the next morning.
We were awoken first thing to another motion alert to see the manager on board checking things out and putting our cameras back in place. He gave us a video walk-thru of the boat – nothing is missing, and the intruder did no major damage (he did pull down an exterior light, probably thinking it was a camera).
A few moments later, the manager called us – with news the intruder had been apprehended.
He had distributed our footage to the entire yard crew, and one of them spotted the perpetrator still hiding out in the yard and the police were called back out.
He was apparently just looking for shelter – and we feel sad that any human soul should have to resort to breaking into property for that.
We’re thankful no damage was done, and no one’s personal safety was at risk. This could have been much worse.
And we hope our experience might help others be better prepared than we were to handle a similar situation.
If you have tips to share about reaching emergency services after hours, please do share in the comments. We however will be removing comments with suggestions on personal safety and weapons – we feel that’s a highly individual choice.
Here’s our video version of this – basically the same thing reported above: