Crime & Courts

Thieves steal expensive wines, coin collection from home of Anchorage businessman

Well-known business owner Van Hale had a streak of bad incidents extended last week when he discovered expensive wines and a large coin collection were stolen from his garage.

The culprits kicked in the back door of the garage at Hale's downtown home, which is currently unoccupied due to a fire in May.

He was flying back from his mother's memorial service in May when his daughter called and told him the house was on fire. In the months following, he's moved twice. The initial relocation to 14th Avenue and G Street did not go well — thieves broke into his wife's vehicle twice, and his car was stolen twice, he said.

Then on Wednesday, he went to check up on the burned dwelling, a home he's occupied since 1990. That's when he found the remnants of the burglary.

He had been collecting coins since he moved into the house, most of which he kept in a large safe. The safe was gone, not an easy task as it measured 6 feet tall, 2 feet wide and 1 foot deep.

The coin collection was meant as a piece of inheritance for his grandchildren, and he's hopeful he can reclaim at least part of it.

The culprits also ran off with about 40 magnum- and standard-sized wine bottles. A number of the bottles were rare, costing $150 to $300, Hale said. Hale estimates the value of the stolen property totals at least $50,000.


But he's unsure what all exactly was stolen. He spent the past several days gathering lists of the items that he plans to provide to police and local pawn shops.

The thieves were selective in their smash-and-grab, cherry-picking the best of the wine bottles. So does he think the people who broke into the home knew what they were doing?

"Somebody knows something," Hale said. "They knew what they were taking."

Hale was away in Seattle on the weekend of Oct. 15. He said he left Friday morning and returned Monday night.

A neighbor noticed Hale's garage door opening around 11 p.m. Saturday, the 15th. The neighbor told Hale he thought Hale was picking something up or moving belongings around. They didn't notice the safe getting hauled off, Hale said.

Hale, who owns and operates Van's Dive Bar and Marx Bros. Cafe, calls downtown Anchorage home. He said in his more than two decades of living in the area, he has experienced little to no crime.

But things seem different this year, he said.

"It's just crazy," he said.

Anchorage Police Department's online crime map shows about a dozen reported burglaries and 10 reported robberies in and around downtown in the past month. More of those crimes were reported in the nearby neighborhood of Fairview.

Police acknowledged earlier this month a spike in crime in the South Addition neighborhood, near downtown. That admission came after APD identified an error in initial data presented to residents there.

[Citing data error, Anchorage police reverse earlier statements on crime spike near downtown: 'It's legitimate']

Hale has no plans to move from the area, he said. The vacant home holds sentimental value — it was built in 1947, the same year he was born.

"Since posting about it (on social media) we've gotten a lot of support," he said. "I'm hoping someone sees something and we get some of this stuff back."

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.