Amid crime worries, some in Anchorage boost home security

Brandon Telford had been thinking about setting up security cameras at his house for a while. But it was the two sets of tires stolen from his home's fenced-in backyard in the University Medical District that gave him the push to do it about two months ago.

"The tire incident was the straw that broke the camel's back," he said. "I don't even know how anyone knew they were back there."

He spent about $300 on two cameras from Best Buy, and set one of them up facing his front door and the other facing the street.

With news of a spike in car thefts and the city on track to break its record for most homicides in one year, other Anchorage residents have added extra layers of security to their homes, too. And some businesses have seen more customers interested in buying surveillance or security systems for their homes and cars.

At electronics company Frigid North Co. on Spenard Road, owner Bryant Trujillo said he's noticed more residential customers in the past six to eight weeks looking to buy one or two security cameras.

Frigid North usually sells more to businesses, but "it seems like it's more consumer-driven lately," Trujillo said.

One electrical contractor in the city has ramped up the security side of his company because that's what more customers have been asking for.

"I didn't want the security camera business as part of my business profile," said Jaimey Sapp, who owns Northern Technology Solutions. "It was demand that has increased that in the past year. I definitely can see a dramatic uptick in the requirement of customers wanting this and there aren't enough providers in town."

The Anchorage Police Department recently got more funding for towing thanks to the rise in car thefts. In all of 2015, there were about 1,200 reports of stolen vehicles in Anchorage, according to an online database of crimes in the city. So far this year, that number is more than 1,400.

Property crime in Anchorage went up slightly between 2014 and 2015, from 11,531 such offenses in 2014 to 11,801 the following year, according to FBI data. But those numbers are down from 2013, when there were 12,032 property crimes. In 2012, the number was 10,543.

Melodey Martindale said she and her husband installed security cameras at their home off Muldoon Road near Northern Lights Boulevard about a year and a half ago after they noticed someone they didn't know scoping out their house.

"My husband was in the garage, and this guy decided to walk up into the garage," she said. "A little scary."

The man saw that her husband had a gun with him, and he promptly took off running, Martindale said.

Even Frigid North, which sells security-related electronics, was the victim of a break-in earlier this year, Trujillo said. A window was broken, he said, but an alarm deterred whoever was trying to get in.

In February, as the Anchorage Police Department was dealing with a rash of car thefts, spokeswoman Jennifer Castro warned against leaving cars running with keys in the ignition but no one inside. Earlier this month, police put out a press release reminding people again to instead use auto-start devices as cold weather arrives.

Lance Holly, sales manager at Perfectionist Auto Sound and Security in Anchorage, said he's noticed more customers asking questions about vehicle security and installing auto-start systems so there's no need to leave the keys in the car to warm it up before getting in.

And then there are instances where leaving cars unlocked, even briefly, has resulted in theft. Social media, including Facebook groups and neighborhood communication apps like Nextdoor, are full of such accounts.

Andy and Jennifer Hickman live near Wickersham Park, around Lake Otis Parkway and East Tudor Road, and he said that within the past month a jacket and sunglasses were stolen from their cars. On one occasion it was because the doors were unlocked, and another time it happened while Jennifer was cleaning out her car and briefly went back into the house.

"We had talked about (getting cameras), like we really ought to do this because we live on a busy street, but we never pulled the trigger," Andy Hickman said, "And then those two incidents and the notices in the neighborhood on (Nextdoor) or one of those things … We figured, it's time."

He said they ended up buying a security system at Fred Meyer for around $400.

Those who don't pick up a system at a big-box store might turn to companies like Sapp's. He said that in the last two months, he's installed more than 70 cameras from South Anchorage to Big Lake.

But even cameras might not stop the boldest thieves.

Sapp has security cameras on his own house near O'Malley Road and Lake Otis Parkway, which he moved into in December. On Monday, Sapp said, someone swiped two packages from his front porch — after looking directly into the camera.

"I just put them on there because we built the house and we thought, why not?" Sapp said. "And that was the thing, we started selling more and more late last year, and I thought I might as well showcase the video capability. Never thought I was going to need it."