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Nome Youth Involved in ‘Alarming’ String of Crimes, Police Say

Block letters spelling "POLICE" on the side of a Nome Police Department SUV.

The Nome Police Department is investigating a string of burglaries and break-ins that date back to July. According to NPD, most of the suspects in these cases are juveniles or young adults, and two of those incidents included the thefts of handguns that have since been recovered by law enforcement. Police have made arrests in four out of the five most recent cases.

The most recent was a theft of a loaded handgun from a parked vehicle on August 27. Two juveniles were remanded to the Nome Youth Facility in that case and are pending transport to another detention center. Investigator Wade Harrison is impressed that the firearms have been recovered but also says that this amount of property theft is abnormal.

“That’s kind of alarming to us, because we’ve had a lot more break-ins to vehicles going on and criminal mischief — especially among the juvenile age group and young adolescents around 18 through 21 (years of age).”

Police haven’t been able to pin down any motive or common factor among the break-ins, like debts owed or potential gang activity. The suspects tend to know each other, but Harrison admits that’s also the reality of living in a small town and doesn’t indicate organized crime. NPD was able to arrest a suspect for alleged burglary at the Bering Tea Company, but they offered no motive.

“We pretty much got your typical teenager response. All we can keep doing is keep throwing charges at them and hope they can get the corrective services they need from behavioral health and juvenile probation.”

Police did make an arrest for a mid-July theft. 19 year-old Kelly Mueller was arrested for the theft of a personal firearm from Mark Johnson’s accounting business. According to charging documents, he later admitted to trading the gun for a bag of marijuana. Mueller faces charges of theft in the second degree and misconduct with a controlled substance. Mueller told Officer Cordell Murray that he had been asked to sell someone a firearm but did not reveal to whom. Among the allegedly stolen items were an estimated $2,500 in cash and four vials containing four ounces of gold.

NPD is still looking for a suspect in a July burglary that occurred at Trinh Johnson’s floral shop. Fingerprints have been sent to the Alaska Crime Detection Laboratory for processing. Nome police believe the suspect to be another youth: 

“The same associates, if you will — they all know each other but different suspects.”

Meanwhile, NPD urges residents to lock their doors and windows and encourages businesses to invest in a surveillance system. Any persons wishing to report information related to these burglaries can call the Nome Police at 443-5262.

Image at top: file photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM.

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