By Margaret Friedenauer
Haines police have been investigating a rash of recent reports of cars being ransacked during the night. Over the weekend those reports escalated to include car theft.
Two vehicles were reported stolen overnight Friday from the Fort Seward area. One car was later found abandoned near Major Road. The second vehicle was discovered totaled.
Julie Vance says she reported her Honda Pilot stolen Saturday morning when she went outside her house.
“I had to think for a minute, did I leave it somewhere? But I knew I had come home the night before at 9 o’clock and it was just … gone,” Vance said.
Shortly after a friend texted Vance asking if she had rolled her vehicle after spotting it near the six-mile spring on Haines Highway banged up and with broken windows. Vance says it appears the thieves hit the cliff wall near eight mile, where her car topper was discovered, and then the car died and was abandoned at six mile.
Haines Police Chief Bill Musser says he suspects the car theft and joyriding are connected to the reports of vehicles being rifled through. He said police have teenagers of interests identified, but are still investigating.
Musser says rummaging through vehicles and joyriding are criminal mischief cases, mainly because the cars in those incidents were not locked and no damage occurred. But Vance’s totaled vehicle is a more serious case, likely a felony. He said he saw the same kind of escalation of criminal mischief cases when he was police chief in Meridian, Idaho.
“We experienced the same thing as the town grew,” Musser said. “We had young people going through vehicles but then they started taking them for joyriding as well and because the keys were accessible they would say ‘OK let’s go for a drive.’”
Musser says the investigation is a priority for the department, which is now up to full staff with the recent hire of a fifth officer. He’s also asking anyone with information on the incidents to notify police.
Since reports began of cars being ransacked, Musser has suggested residents start locking their vehicles. He says he understands that’s a change of habit for many residents but it could help deter the incidents.
“We’ve lived in a town here where we’ve been quite proud of the fact that we haven’t had to lock up doors on our home or on our cars we’ve done that for ages,” Musser said. “But we have young people that have figured that out too. And those young people may not have the same amount of respect for other people’s property and now their taking advantage of the quiet community that we’ve had here and violating people’s space by entering it or taking it as we had in this most recent one.”
Vance says her car – like most of those that have been targeted – wasn’t locked. She’s borrowing a friend’s vehicles while local mechanics determine the fate of her car. And she’s keeping the keys with her, she says.
“It’s a wakeup call for everyone to just be aware and actually be a good neighbor and watching out for each other as well,” Vance said.
To report any information about the recent vehicle incidents, contact the Haines Borough Police Department at 766-2121.