GOULDSBORO, Maine — Burglars who broke into the local town office got away with police handguns, drugs and money but left the town’s famous ship’s bell undisturbed, according to a town official.

Bryan Kaenrath, Gouldsboro’s town manager, said Wednesday that the burglary occurred sometime late Monday night or early Tuesday morning.

The burglars forced their way in through a back door before stealing two duty pistols from the Police Department, old prescription drugs given to police for disposal, $2,400 in cash and $14,000 in checks that had been written out to the town but not yet deposited at a bank, he said. The police and fire departments and town office are located in the same building.

“The bell is fine,” Kaenrath said, referring to the bell from the ship Queen Victoria that historians say is Canada’s version of the Liberty Bell.

In 1864, the bell had been mounted on the Queen Victoria when the ship hosted confederation talks in the harbor of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Two years later — and one year before Canada established itself as a separate nation from the United Kingdom — the bell was given to Gouldsboro ship captain Rufus Allen by the crew of the Queen Victoria as a sign of gratitude after he rescued them from their ship as it was sinking off the coast of North Carolina.

Allen gave the bell to the town in 1875. Just last month, the bell was returned ceremoniously to the town after it had lent it to the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, for a temporary exhibit.

A model of the Queen Victoria that the museum gave the town last month also was undisturbed, the town manager said Wednesday.

Kaenrath said a door to a vault inside the office was destroyed by the burglars, who apparently had tools to pry it open. He said the break-in was more than just a smash-and-grab incident.

“They were there for more than a few minutes,” he said of the thieves.

The Maine State Police is investigating the case, he said.

The town manager said that because of the break-in, the town expects to make some security upgrades at the town office that likely will include increased lighting and surveillance and changes in how often they deposit checks.

“We are going to be looking at building security,” Kaenrath said. “With a case like this, we have to make some changes.”

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....