Thefts of cash strike two borough facilities
Thefts at two Haines Borough facilities over the past three weeks have kept police department staff busy interviewing suspects and following leads.
Three separate thefts of cash, totaling about $200, have been reported at the pool, said interim police chief Simon Ford. Three incidents of theft, also totaling roughly $200, have also been reported at the library, he said.
On Nov. 4, a pool lifeguard called police and said a member of the Haines Dolphins Swim Team discovered money missing from their clothes – stored in a pool locker – after practice.
Interim Sgt. Jason Rettinger went to investigate, and by that time, other members of the team had discovered cash missing from their lockers, too. A woman heard Rettinger asking questions and piped up.
“While he was at the pool, another person said, ‘My husband was swimming last week and $150 was taken out of his wallet.’ That hadn’t been reported to us,” Ford said.
The $150 was stolen Oct. 30.
Pool manager RaeAnn Galasso, who has worked at the pool in one form or another – either instructing, lifeguarding or managing – since 1992, said she has never witnessed anything like this.
“It’s just bizarre and unfortunate,” Galasso said, adding that it was “pretty low” of the person to steal from young children.
Rettinger ultimately identified a suspect, as the lifeguard on duty had offered a detailed description of a suspicious, hooded man who was seen in the building at the time of the thefts.
“Everybody at the pool knows each other, so when somebody comes up and isn’t swimming, it is kind of suspicious,” Galasso said.
Rettinger went to the home where the suspect, a 22-year-old Haines man, was staying, and found the man outside smoking a cigarette. “We’ve taken some interview interrogation classes and learned to recognize deceptive behavior and truthful behavior – the way they hold their eyes and posture and body language and things like that – and he immediately started displaying some deceptive indicators,” Ford said.
Rettinger asked the man, “What would you say if I told you I just got done watching a video of you rifling through lockers?” and the man immediately admitted to the crime, Ford said.
“Then (Rettinger) said, ‘Well, what about last Wednesday?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I took the $150, too.’ So he admitted to both the things and returned the money he still had on him” which amounted to $14, Ford said.
Charges of third-degree theft and second-degree burglary are being forwarded to assistant district attorney Amy Williams, though Ford said he is doubtful the burglary charge will stick.
To secure a burglary conviction, Ford said, an attorney needs to be able to prove a person entered or remained unlawfully in a premises with the intent to commit a crime.
Since the pool is open to the public, that might be hard to argue, he said. “You can make an argument that there’s an expectation of privacy in the locker, but the lockers weren’t locked. It’s a public facility.”
The locker room, though, was not the only part of the pool facility hit by a thief in recent weeks.
On the morning of Oct. 29, Galasso also realized $50 was missing from the pool’s cash register. Ford said he doesn’t know if the locker room and register thefts are connected.
“There’s reason to believe that the theft out of the till at the pool was done by someone who could gain access to the building after hours, and there’s not really any reason to think that this other person who was going through the locker room would have that access,” he said.
The investigation into the theft from the register is ongoing.
Ford is staying relatively mum on the $200 stolen from the library cash register.
Library director Patricia Brown reported cash stolen from the register on Oct. 24, Oct. 30 and Oct. 31, Ford said.
Ford doesn’t know if the thefts occurred during or after business hours, or whether they were committed by an employee or visitor. “The area is accessible just around the corner of a cabinet, so in theory, even if the library was open and volunteers were there or staff was there assisting somebody looking for a book in the back or using the bathroom, a person could access that during business hours,” Ford said.
Anyone with information on any of the incidents is asked to call 766-2121.