Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories examining burglary trends in the central Kenai Peninsula. Tuesday’s story will examine how rural residents can protect their homes and belongings.
Kenai police investigator Mitch Langseth helps Ryan Ellis of Ellis Automotive load items recovered in a burglary bust into Ellis' sport utility vehicle. The recovered items were stolen during a wide-ranging burglary spree in the summer of 2005. Langseth said cooperation between his department, the Soldotna Police Department and the Alaska State Troopers helped with the sizable recovery and serves now as a model for burglary investigations on the central peninsula.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Coming home from work or after an extended shopping trip to Anchorage and finding one’s front door busted wide open can be quite a shock.
Once deciding it’s safe to go in, the resident’s next thought is to see what’s missing.
Tools, guns and cash generally top the list, but odd items such as stuffed bears, cartons of cigarettes and candy often surprise police.
There’s more to the felony crime of burglary than just the stolen property, however, according to central Kenai Peninsula law enforcement officers who investigate the crimes.
Usually the damage done to the residence or vehicle is confined to a broken window or pried open door done in the process of getting in, according to Kenai Police Sgt. Gus Sandahl, but there have been cases where other property has been damaged.
Soldotna Police Chief John Lucking Jr. said, “a huge amount of emotional damage” is done, as well.
“You get this feeling you’re unsafe even in your own home ... you’ve been violated,” Lucking said.
Damage also can come in the form of identity theft, he said.
While a burglar is in someone’s home or in their car, a credit card or credit-card statement can be picked up, revealing the victim’s name and credit-card number, leading to fraudulent purchases or other theft beyond the scope of breaking and entering.
On occasion, property damage extends to items inside the home or business.
“A couple years ago, some kids went around and spray painted profanity on some residences (that had been burglarized),” said Sandahl.
“Some of the messages were taunting police (to catch them),” he said.
Sandahl also recalled a business burglary during which thieves broke into several glass display cases.
“Businesses usually have alarms, so the thieves don’t have much time to vandalize,” he said.
Alaska State Trooper investigator Scott Briggs said that during one recent burglary near Soldotna, thieves “actually tore the doors off a residence” that was under construction.
“The thieves took everything,” he said.
While Briggs said most people who vacate getaway cabins on the peninsula during winter months drain their pipes and shut off all power, “there have been a couple where doors were left open (by burglars) and windows were broken, causing pipes to freeze.”
Lucking said, “Whether it’s a business or a private residence, it’s always a door or a window (that is damaged).
“If people have locked drawers and doors inside, burglars tend to get more aggressive and break them also,” he said.
Although none of the officers recommended leaving doors unlocked to mitigate damage, Lucking said having “a dog is a big deterrent to burglaries.”
Briggs and Lucking said tools are a favorite item among burglars. Sandahl said stolen items span “the whole gamut.”
Sometimes burglars take things they can use themselves, the officers said, or things they can sell to friends. Often, the items stolen are traded for drugs.
“We’re finding everything,” said Briggs, of where stolen items end up.
“Stuff is taken to people who sell it, it’s traded for (methamphetamine) or other drugs, it goes to a pawn shop, or, with construction tools, they’re re-engraving them with their own information and using it,” Briggs said.
Among the most unusual items he has seen stolen are the pair of bear mounts recently stolen from near the Soldotna “Y” and bear hide rugs valued at between $2,000 and $3,000.
“There’s no way to trace them,” Briggs said.
“There’s no serial number or identifying mark. The owner might recognize them by color or something, but it’s hard to positively identify them,” he said.
Briggs and Sandahl said moose antlers are also commonly stolen items in Alaska.
“Through the years we have had antler thieves, often taking them from outside (people’s homes),” Sandahl said.
“If you really value them, put them inside,” he said.
Sandahl said burglars also have been known to take cartons of cigarettes from homes and, in the Kenai area, they have stolen candy bars from snack shacks at the Little League fields, Kenai Central High School and the softball diamonds.
Burglary victims find some common and uncommon items missing, according to law enforcement officers:
· Tools, guns, cash
· Identities (as in credit card numbers)
· Bear mounts
· Bear hide rugs
· Moose antlers
· Candy bars
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