Mat-Su troopers tackle increasing theft calls
The types of crimes committed in the Matanuska-Susitna valleys have changed over the past few years.
The Alaska State Troopers B Detachment covers the Palmer, Wasilla, Talkeetna and Glennallen areas. From 2017 to 2018, troopers report that robberies in those areas went down, while the number of burglaries rose only slightly.
However, troopers in those areas saw a 90% increase in theft cases; the numbers spiked from 554 reports in 2017 to 1,053 in 2018.
Official statistics for 2019 are still pending, but the trooper dispatch website shows at least 40 cases involving theft in the Mat-Su in June.
One of those reports came from Tundra Comics artist Chad Carpenter, who had a box truck stolen.
“A friend of mine borrowed the truck and evidently at 11:30 Saturday night someone decided they wanted it,” Carpenter said. “They broke the window out, hot-wired it in some fashion and drove away with it."
His friend’s security camera caught the suspect driving off with the rig. Carpenter posted the crime online and asked people to be on the lookout.
There are several crime-devoted Facebook pages that are filled with similar stories.
“We see an uptick in burglaries and theft-based offenses in the summertime. Theft is a crime of opportunity,” said Sgt. Ronald Hayes with the Alaska State Troopers Criminal Suppression Unit — the unit that takes over B Detachment burglary cases.
“Property based offenses require a lot of follow up, search warrants, contacts, interviews. So we’re able to step in,” he said.
Sgt. Hayes said the best way to get your property back if it’s stolen is to document the serial numbers and take photos of the items.
“We’ve gone into many houses where we know the property is stolen and we can’t link it to a particular crime,” he said.
At his office in the Palmer post, Sgt. Hayes has pages of search warrants ready to go. Photos from past cases show why it’s so important to keep a record of your belongings.
If troopers don’t have the serial numbers to prove the items are stolen, they can’t take them. Sgt. Hayes said it’s frustrating to leave evidence they know is stolen.
“If we ran any of these serial numbers pretty much guaranteed 100% of the time they’re going to come back with no hits on them and we know they’re stolen. But we don’t have a case to put them to,” he said.
In 2018, Mat-Su troopers recovered more than $180,000 in stolen property. They also found 12 vehicles, three ATV/UTV/snowmachines and one plane.
As for the case of Carpenter’s missing box truck, someone who saw his Facebook post spotted the stolen vehicle and troopers recovered most of it.
“[The thieves] removed the back bumper, the seats were taken out but still in the truck. They replaced one of the seats with another seat, I have no idea what’s going on there and the radio is gone,” Carpenter said.
He found one of his old comics featuring an officer who pulled over a box truck and posted it online, dedicating it to troopers as a thank you.
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