Van heist opens eyes in windsurfing world

Sailworks owner Bruce Peterson looks for answers in a peculiar crime

Most people would like to assume that their vehicles are safe when they are at work — especially when the car is parked right outside.

But, as Sailworks owner Bruce Peterson found out last Friday, that assumption is no longer a safe one to make.

Some time on the afternoon of March 14, while he and his staff worked inside their warehouse off Interstate 84 in Hood River, a thief raided the parking lot and made off with Peterson’s van.

To add insult to injury, approximately $15,000 worth of windsurfing gear was inside the van, and as of March 21, none of it had been recovered.

However, the van was discovered in Southeast Portland on Wednesday, and returned to a concerned — and very angry — Peterson.

“The van is fine, but it just makes me nauseous,” he said. “That was one of the most brazen acts I could have ever imagined. I mean, we can see the parking lot from our front windows.”

Peterson said that between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., someone stole his van without making a sound.

“I went to leave at 6 p.m. and it was gone,” he said. “I even considered that someone was playing a joke on me. But after looking around for a minute, it dawned on me that I had been ripped off.”

Hood River Police Sgt. Neil Holste responded to the call along with officer David Thompson, and told Peterson that, while these occurrences are rare in Hood River, there was a rash of similar crimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Peterson said he would like to think that the thief was just a transient who was passing through town and needed a car.

However, he has also considered the possibility that he was targeted for his gear. But that seems to be less likely.

“I have a lot of faith in the people of the local windsurfing community,” Peterson said. “I’ve heard of petty theft before, but a crime this big is pretty unique. In fact, I only know of two other times that it’s happened in the United States.”

Peterson said that in both instances, the equipment was eventually returned. He hopes that his sails, booms and boards will also return, and has confidence that whoever brings the equipment into the open will be caught.

“These aren’t just average sails and boards,” he said. “They are specialized and used primarily for racing. Anyone around here will recognize the stuff as being ours, and I doubt if anyone locally would have the courage to use it.”

Peterson has contacted everyone he knows in the Northwest, the East Coast, Texas, California and more. He has also contacted all the second-hand equipment stores in Portland and Hood River, and has developed a website to aid in the recovery of the stolen items.

“We’ll just see where it turns up, I guess,” he said. “Sooner or later, the person or people who are responsible will be found out. The windsurfing community is a pretty tight-knit group.”

If you have any information about the stolen windsurfing equipment or the van theft, please contact the Hood River Police at 386-3942. Peterson’s website is at:

www.sailworks.com/2003/stolen.htm

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