Rescuer loses gear to thief

Fifth person victimized by downtown thefts

Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Sitting at a sporting goods shop where he had purchased most of his climbing gear over the years, Steve Handy eyed the cost to replace the items he used with Juneau Mountain Rescue.

All of Handy's climbing and rescue gear was stolen Jan. 8 from his 1992 GMC van parked at Merchants Wharf.

"This is disgusting - $2,222," he said. "I seriously doubt that I can - I can't replace this. This doesn't even include the $800 police scanner they took. We're volunteers. Nobody's paying in for this stuff.

"Unless someone else has equipment I can use, I can't go out on a rescue. So not only is the team losing a core member with three and half years experience, but I'm an EMT. Whoever took my gear, stole from the whole community."

Handy's day job is at ACS Wireless but he moonlights at the Hangar on the Wharf to make ends meet and put his daughter through college, he said. He was working when the incident occurred.

Handy is one of five people who've had items stolen from vehicles in the area over the past two months. Handy discovered the items were missing Friday when he opened the back of his van to get his gear ready for a training session. It was empty.

"Rage," said Handy. "There's no other word to describe what I felt when I saw it was all gone."

He said a Hangar waitress had $400 in textbooks, just purchased for school, stolen from her vehicle last week. In December, a waiter from the Hangar had a backpack and a stereo stolen, and Juneau Empire Sports Editor Charles Bingham had camera equipment and other property stolen that was worth more than $2,000.

All of the thefts were from vehicles parked in the Merchants Wharf parking lot.

Police said they have increased patrols in the area, but Capt. Tom Porter said there is little police can do.

"Unless we come up on whoever's doing this or have a witness who sees them, these cases are difficult to solve," said Porter. "We have very little in the way of leads or suspects."

Sgt. Kevin Siska said one item, a jacket, was recovered. He said police regularly check local pawn shops and nothing has turned up.

Porter is encouraging people to be "good witnesses" and report anything suspicious. He also said people should remember to lock vehicle doors, roll up windows and put valuables in the trunk.

Handy, whose property was not insured, is offering a $400 reward.

"I'll make it really easy for whoever took my gear. They can call me and just return it, no questions asked," he said.

Anyone with information may contact the police at 586-0600. Handy can be reached at 321-8266.

Melanie Plenda can be reached

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