Sterling highway break-ins leave business owners frustrated

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Wednesday, April 23, 2014 11:24pm
  • News

A handful of break-ins around the central Kenai Peninsula over the past couple of weeks have left some businesses owners frustrated.

Steve Stuber, owner of Lea’s Boutique on the Sterling Highway had just opened his business two months ago when an overnight burglar entered into his business and stole $1,500 in merchandise and did $1,000 worth of damage on April 16.

One night earlier, three males used a hammer to break through the window of Tobacco Distress across the street and steal three large water bongs. Alaska State Troopers arrested Jason Wilson, 20, Jason Phipps, 19, and Timothy Wood,19, all from Soldotna, after the bongs were found in their possession, according to an Alaska State Trooper dispatch.

Stuber, the former owner of Tobacco Distress, said sometime after midnight, the thieves took off a section of exterior siding at Lea’s Boutique, kicked through sheetrock in the back of the building, jumped over the counter and disabled his security camera and motion detector. Once inside of the adult shop, they took a mannequin wearing lingerie with them, two blowup dolls, along with a handful of other smaller priced items, he said.

Stuber said he has already upgraded his security since the break-in and has offered a $1,000 reward to hopefully catch what he believes is the act of juveniles.

“It is frustrating,” he said. “You try to build on something and establish yourself in the community and something like this happens.”

Also on April 16 at about 12:51 a.m. rolls of chain-link fencing and a gate were stolen from the Sterling Community Center. SCC President Bob Oates said security camera footage has been given to troopers who are reviewing the footage.

Oates said the community Neighborhood Watch program, which started up a couple years ago due to an increase in thefts, has been active in reporting suspicious activity to troopers.

In the last two weeks, overnight break-ins and stolen and damaged property have sprung up around the Kenai Peninsula with trooper reports in Sterling, Homer, Anchor Point, Ninilchik, Girdwood and Kalifornsky.

AST Sgt. Eugene Fowler, from the Soldotna Post, said troopers have been running down a few leads, but do not have any specific evidence connecting the break-ins.

“At this time it is believed these are all random acts,” he said. “We are sharing our investigations with other law enforcement, but do not believe it is a series of connected burglaries.”

Fowler said break-ins are common during the spring, especially when reports come in from seasonal residents who come back to their property after being away for months to discover that items have been stolen. He said “snow burgs,” as troopers call them, are typically reported in April and May and reports this year are no more unusual.

He said troopers are doing their best within their manpower to patrol the areas where burglaries are reported. He also encourages the public to contact troopers if they have seen any suspicious activity, but warns people to not take proactive measures themselves.

He said sites like the Facebook page Kenai Peninsula Crime, where people inform others of criminal activity in the area, can be helpful, but it should also be reported to authorities.

“Social media is a quick, easy way to get information out there,” he said. “We have the justice system for a reason.”

Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters said burglaries are a crime of opportunity and business owners and seasonal residents should take steps to lock up valuables and not leave things in view.

“When people notice patterns, they could victimize you,” she said. “We want to encourage people to be mindful and make yourself a harder target.”

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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