Spate of thefts put Gustavus residents on edge

Picture of flier listing a $5000 reward for information leading to the prosecution of thieves in Gustavus as posted on the Living in Paradise Facebook page on November 15, 2013.

Residents of Gustavus are fed up with the thefts. For most of the summer and early fall, various items around town have disappeared and some residents are starting to worry that an influx of thieves have permanently changed the character of the little community by Glacier Bay.

Gustavus businesses and residents have pooled together $5000 in reward money for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the thief or thieves.

Alaska State Troopers say they have just received a report of a Gustavus resident who had $2,000 worth of wild game traps taken from an unsecured personal storage facility on Dolly Varden Lane. The theft was reported on November 18th.

There was also a set of camera gear that was stolen out of a parked car on July 4th. The theft of an Alpaca raft with emergency gear from a beach on Pleasant Island had the effect of stranding two hikers there on August 19th. The total value of the raft with float coat, dry bags of clothing, and radio was about $2300. Then, sometime around October 27th, approximately $230 worth of cigarettes and $400 cash was stolen from the Fireweed Gallery.

Gustavus doesn’t have a full-time law enforcement presence. Alaska State Trooper Joshua Bentz, who is normally based out of Juneau, has had travel to Gustavus twice already as part of investigation into the Fireweed Gallery case. He said the thief appeared to be very specific about the brand and type of cigarettes that they wanted.

“There was no forced entry. The doors were all still locked. However, there was one door that had a weak locking mechanism and it could be easily manipulated,” said Bentz.

He said potential suspects in that case have been cleared.

According to the reward flier posted around town, there have been additional thefts from the Toshco store and other locations.

Mayor Sandy Marchbanks said items have been stolen from a boat and at least three homes, including furniture, medicine, and sport fishing gear. Marchbanks said it’s sad that there is now an element in Gustavus that has changed the character of the community and left residents uncomfortable. They used to leave their keys in the ignition and their doors unlocked.

She said they’ve had a few minor thefts before, but nothing quite on this scale.

“I can’t estimate or guess that there’s a certain individual or a group that’s behind this, but it sure does seem like there’s been a spike in the trend of thefts,” said Bentz.

Bentz has also heard concerns about a spike in alleged drug use in Gustavus.

Anyone with information in case of the stolen traps is asked to contact the Alaska State Troopers at 465-4000, and callers can remain anonymous.

As for the community reward, Marchbanks said anyone with information about the thefts in Gustavus can leave a message at 697-2451 and the call will be considered confidential.

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