Law enforcement options are focus of Nikiski meeting

Posted: Sunday, February 29, 2004

Creating a special law enforcement service area may be the answer to stopping a recent spate of burglaries in the Island Lake Road area of Nikiski, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member who represents the northern community.

The Nikiski Community Council will conduct a public meeting Monday at 7 p.m. to address the burglaries and law enforcement possibilities.

Assembly member Gary Superman said several options are available to the community, in addition to creating the service area, including establishing an Alaska State Trooper substation in Nikiski, electing a sheriff similar to sheriff departments in counties in the Lower 48, developing a neighborhood watch program and simply maintaining the status quo.

"The situation's getting more and more intense. There is no visible authority out there," Superman said.

"I'm looking into a law enforcement service area. There are none in Alaska at this time, though the North Slope Borough has a police department," he said.

Superman said he has contacted the Legislature and the governor's office for answers to some questions at the state level that would need to be answered.

At a meeting earlier this month, the community expressed anger over more than 20 residential burglaries committed there in a three-month period beginning in November.

Since the meeting, one suspect has been arrested and burglary charges on another have been forwarded by troopers to the district attorney's office for review. The second suspect is in Wildwood Pretrial Facility on other unrelated charges.

Michael C. Evans, 30, of Nikiski, was arrested and charged with possession of stolen property. Troopers searched his residence and reportedly found about $20,000 worth of property believed to have been taken in Nikiski burglaries.

"People out there have been extremely helpful," said trooper Sgt. Dan Donaldson.

After the arrest, Donaldson said several people came forward identifying property that had been stolen from them.

"We recovered close to 1,500 items," he said. "We linked portions of the property to 13 separate burglaries or thefts."

Not all the crimes occurred in Nikiski. He said some had been reported by Kenai police and some took place in the Kalifornsky Beach area, but most were in Nikiski.

"A lot of people have worked with us and contributed to any success we've had," Donaldson said.

"People have called and said they've bought stuff from the guy whose name was in the paper," Donaldson said of Evans.

"Those sorts of things are really helpful in learning how many of these things these people have been involved in."

When asked what he believes is the answer to the burglaries, one victim, Don Feltman, said, "We're gonna have to have a presence of law enforcement out (in Nikiski)."

Feltman's wife's brand new 2003 Polaris four-wheeler was stolen from alongside his Nikiski home in late May last year.

Feltman said he tracked the vehicle's unique tire tracks to a suspect's home and, accompanied by a trooper, asked the person in the house about the four-wheeler.

"He said it wasn't in there, and the trooper said we couldn't search the place because there was no evidence that the vehicle was there.

"The guy then ordered me off the property, and the trooper said I had to leave," Feltman said.

"We've got a neighborhood watch out here. We all look out for each other's houses when they're gone.

"The troopers are understaffed. I know that. But we need some law enforcement, an active force with however many people are required."

Feltman said trooper E Detach-ment commander Capt. Tom Bowman told residents to write down license numbers of suspicious vehicles they see in the neighborhood and call troopers with the information.

"We call them and they don't return our calls.

"When I told them about my wife's four-wheeler and they couldn't even get a search warrant, what good is it?" he asked.

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