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Recent rash of thefts and break-ins rattle Bethel residents’ faith in their community

 Stan's Barber Shop's back room after a recent break in.
Stanley Corp
Stan's Barber Shop's back room after a recent break in.

Local business owner Stanley Corp built most of the things in his shop by hand: chairs, benches, and cabinets. The shop is Stan’s Barber Shop, and Stanley is Stan.

“When I pulled up and saw the window smashed out, my heart sank,” Corp said.

He’s run his barber shop for more than 30 years. The recent break-in wasn’t the first, but it was the messiest. Someone had rummaged through his drawers and cabinets, emptying them onto the floor.

“I tell everybody, it would have made you sick to look at it,” Corp said.

He lost a day of business cleaning it up. Whoever broke in also stole cash. Corp linked the break-in to other recent incidents of theft and vandalism in Bethel that include stolen cars, slashed tires, and ransacked businesses.

Nonprofits have been hit too, including Bethel Search and Rescue (BSAR), said BSAR president Mike Riley, who came into Stan’s Barber Shop for a haircut. The same night Stan’s was broken into, BSAR was too. Two four-wheelers were stolen from the property. One was found upside down on the side of Ptarmigan St., and another was across town behind the hospital.

“A little, hard spot to find,” Riley said. “It took two days to find that one.”

Before this year, BSAR had never been broken into. This summer, it happened twice. The equipment that was stolen is used by volunteers in rescue missions. Riley said that the community is less safe when BSAR is missing the tools to do its job.

“We plead out to everybody to please don’t break into them. We utilize them to help others,” Riley said. “Without equipment, sometimes we’re not able to respond.”

Other local businesses and nonprofits have also been hit with break-ins recently. Adam London is a pastor at Bethel Evangelical Covenant Church. The church runs the Quyana Cafe food truck. It teaches young people job skills, and proceeds support church programming. London also owns his own shaved ice business that he parks next to the Quyana Cafe truck. They’re both outside the Bethel Cultural Center. Recently, he was driving by when he saw that the Quyana Cafe’s windows had been broken.

“I realized that the lock had also been snapped for the shave ice trailer,” London said.

London believes kids were most likely responsible for the break in.

“They stole a bunch of gummy worms,” London said.

London estimates that there was only about $100 worth of damage.

In addition to business and nonprofits, individuals have also experienced a recent string of thefts, one of which made it a chaotic start to the school year for Bethel teacher Kathleen Naneng. In just one week, Naneng’s grandchild was born, her dog had to be put down, and her car was stolen. The third thing tested her relationship with her hometown.

“This is where I grew up,” Naneng said. “I was very sad to learn that I really can’t trust everybody in my community like I once did.”

Two days after the theft, Naneng’s car turned up near H-Marker Lake with minimal damage, but many of her belongings had been strewn around town. The belongings included boating gear, coats, and even the car handbook, which had been in the glove compartment. She still hasn’t found her granddaughter’s car seat.

Everyone in this story reported the incidents to the Bethel Police Department. Acting Bethel Police Chief Lt. Jesse Poole said that the department is “actively investigating all leads.” Poole encouraged the community to contact the department with information about the crimes.

Poole also encouraged people to lock doors and windows, to take their keys out of their cars, and to not leave things of value in plain sight.

Nina is a temporary news reporter at KYUK. She comes to Bethel from NPR, where she's a producer at Morning Edition.
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