A string of burglaries in the Soldotna area in the last month is keeping law enforcement officials busy.
The Soldotna Police Department and Alaska State Troopers are following up on leads and urging residents to be alert to any suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.
Since Oct. 23, five burglaries within the Soldotna city limits have been reported in which residences or businesses were entered and items -- usually money -- taken. Troopers have responded to four similar incidents in the Soldotna area in the last week, part of a recent spike in the number of overall calls reported involving burglaries and theft.
According to Soldotna police, on Oct. 23 both the Soldotna Baptist and Methodist churches were entered during nonbusiness hours. A small quantity of cash was taken from the Baptist church office; desks were searched in the Methodist church, but nothing was removed.
A Nov. 10 incident resulted in the theft of a portion of the next day's till money at Cad-Re Feeds, while someone forcibly entered a Brooks Avenue residence Nov. 14 and took a significant amount of antique silver coins and a video camera. A Nov. 17 incident on Marydale Avenue resulted in the theft of a large amount of change from the residence.
Soldotna police Detective Sgt. Tod McGillivray said in most instances, entry was gained through an unlocked door or window while the businesses or residences were unoccupied. McGillivray said money was the target in most of the burglaries, and very little, if any, damage was done.
"They strictly want the money in most cases," McGillivray said. "There were two residences where they passed up firearms to go for the change. They are gaining entry when no one is home and hitting the dresser drawers, desks or places where people might keep money."
He added, in some cases, the burglars are even being selective about the currency they take.
"In one case they actually dumped the jar on the bed and took only the silver coins like quarters, nickels and dimes," McGillivray said. "They left the pennies."
McGillivray said an increase in crimes involving the theft of money are common this time of year, as burglars try to find a quick source of cash.
"It's the holidays, and they're looking for extra money," McGillivray said. "That's possibly why the churches are being hit -- they figure more money is being given."
Troopers responded to similar incidents in the last week on Gaswell Road, Big Eddy Road and Knackstedt Street.
Trooper 1st Sgt. Nils Monsen said residents in the Echo Lake Road and Poppy Lane areas should be alert to any suspicious activity too.
Monsen added the last seven weeks have seen a jump in the number of Soldotna-area burglaries and thefts reported to troopers -- an increase over last year's numbers at this time. Monsen said the spike in reports isn't concentrated in the central peninsula, adding the Anchorage Police Department is dealing with its own string of burglaries and thefts.
"At last count, we had 26 burglaries and thefts reported from October through November," Monsen said. "And we are spending a great deal of effort investigating these cases."
Anyone with information on the burglaries or those wishing to report suspicious activity are urged to call the Soldotna Police Department at 262-4455, Alaska State Troopers at 262-4453 or Kenai Peninsula Crime Stoppers at 283-TIPS.
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