• ‘Homer’s a mess right now’
By Carey Restino
Homer Police have responded to numerous break-ins in recent weeks, not only to several area businesses, but to residential homes and vehicles as well. And while some spike in crime is typical this time of year, police say there may be a correlation between the recent burglaries and a simultaneous outbreak in drug-related offenses and arrests.
“We are having a rash of break-ins right now,” said Homer Police Sgt. Lary Kuhns, also noting a spike in arrests pertaining to methamphetamine and heroine. “Professionally speaking, I see a strong correlation between those two.”
Last week, Timeless Toys on Main Street reported a break-in. Kuhns said he couldn’t talk about what was stolen from the store – it was something only the suspect would know – but said the case was being actively worked.
Sometime between Saturday evening and Monday morning, Tech Connect on Pioneer Avenue was broken into. That robbery was fairly professional, the store owners said, as the burglar or burglars removed a store light bulb and cut power to security cameras before using a crowbar to force their way into the back door of the store.
Co-owner Gayle Forrest said the robber or robbers took several iPads and other high-dollar items totaling some $4,000 in merchandise. Thatís a big hit for the family-run business.
Forrestís niece Diana Hahnlen, who works at the store, discovered the break-in when she arrived Monday morning.
ìItís a blow,î she said. ìWeíre trying to get stocked up for the holidays. It really hurts the business.î
Forrest said anyone in the community who is approached with an offer to buy an iPad cheap should be wary. She asked that anyone with information about such offers contact the Homer Police or call Crimestoppers.
ìThese iPads are highly desired items,î she said. ìGreed is taking over. They needed money and these are untraceable.î
Kuhns said police have made some progress on the earlier break-in case with the Pioneer Avenue Salvation Army store and hope to file paperwork with the courts this week on that case. Suspects have been identified in other cases, too.
Meanwhile, police continue to see a spike in arrests relating to drug offenses. In several cases, the drug charges come about after people being arrested for other crimes are found to be in possession of methamphetamine, heroine or other drugs.
Such was the case last Friday when police patrolling through Safewayís parking lot were waved over by store manager Bob Malone, who was following a woman out to her car. Malone reported to police that the woman, Kimberly Pane, had allegedly walked out of the store with a cart full of groceries. The officer observed Pane putting the groceries in her car. When Payne was contacted, she admitted taking the groceries. Eric Haughey was in the driverís seat of the car. During a pat-down, a small ìdimeî baggie of heroine was found on Haugheyís person, and he was placed under arrest. At the jail, the duty officer found another larger baggie containing several bags of heroine, and a bag of methamphetamine. During an interview, Haughey allegedly admitted to using heroine, and was charged with two counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance in the fourth degree, both felonies.
ìThere seem to be a correlation between these thefts and the break-ins,î Kuhns said. ìI also think its indicative of whatís going on in the community.î
Kuhns said in his many years working for the Homer Police Department, heís rarely, if ever, seen so much drug activity.
ìHomerís a mess right now,î he said. Iíve been here a long time, and Iíve never seen it so bad. And itís not just me thatís saying that. Thereís an unbelievable amount of drug activity right now.î
Kuhns said residents will be well advised to take precautions, such as leaving a light on outside their residence, and even putting up a note or card indicating the property is under survelence. Being more consistent about locking your home and car is also important, he noted.
ìDo those basic things you would do as far as being vigilant,î Kuhns said. ìJust do a few things that may make a suspect or suspects have second thoughts.î
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