Man sticks pole through mail slot to steal shoes from Nanaimo children's charity

Surveillance video of the incident - shot between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on May 15 at NUKO's office at 60 Needham St. - shows a man "using a long stick to fish out" a pair of Nike high-tops from a slot in the building's door, police said. (Nanaimo RCMP)

Police on Vancouver Island are asking the public for help identifying a man seen on surveillance video stealing shoes from a charitable organization.

The incident took place at Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization, a group that supports children with neurological differences - including autism and Down syndrome - that can affect learning.

Surveillance video of the incident - shot between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on May 15 at NUKO's office at 60 Needham St. - shows a man "using a long stick to fish out" a pair of Nike high-tops from a slot in the building's door, police said.

They said the man made "many attempts" before successfully retrieving the shoes, and NUKO executive director Teresa Nielsen said he was outside the facility's door for at least two hours.

Nielsen told CTV News Vancouver Island the shoes belonged to a child who had been participating in NUKO programs. 

She said the facility is closed right now because of COVID-19, so staff moved all of the students' belongings to a table near the entryway to make them easier for parents to pick up without having to spend a lot of time inside the building.

When Nielsen got to the office after the incident, she initially thought someone had broken in because so many things had been knocked off the table.

"I was very confused," she said. "I went and looked at the tape, and I was just in disbelief."

Nielsen said the man started by using a stick to reach the table, which she described as "three or four feet" away from the door. He eventually got hold of a broom that was resting against the wall next to the door, and ended up using the broomstick to reach the table, Nielsen said.

"He worked really hard to get those shoes," she said, adding that the man seemed aware of the surveillance camera and hid his face from it throughout the incident.

He also ducked out of sight whenever cars passed by, and took at least one cigarette break during the theft, Nielsen said.

"The only thing that scared him off was it was now daylight," she said.

Since the theft, parents of children who use NUKO's services have volunteered to build a container for mail dropped through the mail slot, so that it no longer opens into the facility, Nielsen said.

She added that nothing like this has ever happened to the organization before, and that she hopes police will be able to find and charge the thief and recover the shoes.

Nanaimo RCMP are asking anyone with information about the man's identity to contact them at 250-754-2345.

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