| alaska wire : Burglaries increase in Anchorage | alaska wire : Burglaries increase in Anchorage
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Last year, Police Sgt. Ron Tidler said, his burglary unit handled about 30 burglary cases a week. Now, the number is up to 50 break-ins a week.

Tidler and others in the department say the city’s burglary rate has steadily increased since 2003 and has been surging since spring.

Homes, stores, offices, construction sites and vehicles are all getting hit.

Tina Williams said burglars took her father’s war medals and frightened the family rabbit so badly it ran in frenzied circles for days.

“It feels different in here, dirty,” she told the Anchorage Daily News. “You try to think that if someone steals from you, they needed it more than you do, but these things belonged to me, not to them.”

From 2003 to 2004, the city saw a rise of 7 percent in the number of burglaries. From 2004 to 2005, burglaries jumped another 17 percent. At the close of 2006, the statistical climb will continue, police officers predict.

Pawn shops and security businesses said they have also noticed the increase.

“At least one person a day comes in and says they’ve been robbed,” said Katherine Ferguson, manager at Tudor Pawn. “It’s been going up for the past year.”

Most of the residential break-ins in Anchorage occur during the day when people aren’t home and have left a window or garage open.

“It used to be ‘We live in Alaska and we don’t have to lock our doors.’ Well, that’s all changing,” Tidler said.

At the Sellin home in Bayshore earlier this month, a burglar kicked his way in and then ran off with the family’s new $1,000 flat screen TV, among other items.

Jo-Li Sellin says she does not plan to buy another TV, and has installed an alarm system.

“I think people are pretty vulnerable but don’t realize it,” Sellin said.

Very few people get their belongings back. Most of it is sold quickly in other parts of Alaska, the Lower 48, or on eBay, Tidler said.

Many of the thieves are looking for items like laptop computers, jewelry and guns to support drug habits.

There are so many burglaries that the majority are not investigated, police said.

“They understand armed robbery will put them away for six years or maybe longer, but there’s not a lot of risk in property crime,” said Deputy Police Chief Ross Plummer.

Plummer said the gradual increase in property crimes can be partly blamed on the court system.

“People don’t get put away, so we have repeat burglars. Or, they go away for a couple of months, come back out. … It’s that cycle.”

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