Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Rogue at the harbor: Lock on crane cut 4 times


At least one person doesn’t want to shell out the $50 annual fee for use of the Small Boat Harbor crane, and instead has decided to repeatedly cut off the crane lock and use the service for free.

Since the crane came back on line in early March, the lock has been cut four times.      

The Haines Borough spent nearly $25,000 refurbishing the crane this winter, replacing hydraulics, wire rope and the quick release hook. The $50 annual fee to use the crane comes with a key to unlock it so it can be used after business hours, when staff isn’t around.

Despite numerous postings in the newspaper, on the radio and around town that warned cutting the lock would be punished with a fine and replacement fee, the lock-cutting continued, harbormaster Phil Benner said.

Benner said he suspects it is one person cutting the lock – a commercial-grade Master Lock – over and over again.

“I’m not really sure (what they’re using to cut the lock). I think they’re using a lock cutter. One time I know they used a saw,” Benner said.

When asked how the person hasn’t been caught – how is it possible to illicitly use a large crane without somebody noticing? – Benner said he is confident there have been witnesses.  

“I’m sure there are people who know who is doing it,” Benner said.

Borough clerk Julie Cozzi said staff are checking the crane as often as they can at night and on weekends.

Cozzi said the borough spent $600 on the locks and keys for legitimate customers. “It is disappointing one or more people cannot understand they need to pay for these services,” she said.

Benner said each lock costs a couple hundred dollars to replace.

Cozzi said the borough is considering installing surveillance cameras similar to those at the Lutak Dock, or allowing crane use only while staff is on duty.

“We’re discussing whether we will just have it open during business hours, but that would be a big hassle for the fishermen,” Benner said.

Benner said he would support installing surveillance cameras. “If we catch one person doing it and are able to charge them, I think that would go a long way to stopping it. We can’t have people stealing services, because we spent $25,000 on refurbishments and we need to recoup that cost,.”

Public facilities director Carlos Jimenez also said he would support installing surveillance cameras at the harbor and other sites around town.

“In the time that I have been employed with the borough there have been numerous incidents of doors being kicked in, locks being cut, feces painted on a wall, garbage dumping, an incendiary device placed in the library book drop, a wall being kicked in, and probably a few more things I just can’t place right now,” said Jimenez. “So, that being said, I believe cameras could be a solution to protect some of the community assets.”

Police chief Bill Musser said police are “investigating ongoing criminal mischief at the harbor,” but wouldn’t elaborate. Musser said police are performing extra patrols in the area.

In addition to the lock cuttings, the harbor has also been experiencing an inordinate amount of illegal dumping lately. Recently, Benner arrived at the harbor to find the harbor dumpster “overflowing with household garbage, all the same white bags with orange drawstrings.”

“Evidence was gathered from the bags and has been turned over to the police department,” Cozzi said.

It’s illegal to use the harbor dumpster for household trash. 


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