ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Anchorage police say three businesses have been hit in the last week by a man who appears to be a young and eager job hunter -- but is actually a thief on the prowl for purses and iPhones.
On Feb. 9, just after 2 p.m., a white man who looks like a young adult or older teenager visited the RE/MAX Properties real-estate office at 110 W. 38th Ave. Police say he asked the receptionist if the company was hiring, then went to the men’s bathroom on the second floor. Shortly after he left the building, two iPhones were reported missing.
On Valentine’s Day, it was the same story at an office building on 2600 Cordova St. Larry Imhoff, a sales manager for Wostmann and Associates, was away from his desk on a morning conference call.
“And looking through the window, I saw somebody come into the office. I caught them out of the corner of my eye,” Imhoff said.
The next time Imhoff looked up, the man was leaving the office. He believes he was there for less than a minute. When Imhoff returned to his desk, he saw that his iPhone was gone.
Imhoff says AT&T was quick to clear the data on his cell phone -- but he still felt shocked and violated, adding that he believes cell phones are in many ways more valuable than a wallet.
“You have pictures on there. You have all your personal e-mails. You have all your business contacts,” said Imhoff.
Jennifer Jones, who works down the hall as a receptionist for the Alaska Travel Industry Association, says she was away from the front desk and was surprised to encounter the young man in the back of her office.
“He was calm and genuinely looked like he was looking for a job,” said Jones, who gave police a description of the man.
Steve Kari, an engineer with USKH in an office downstairs, said the same thing.
“He looked like he was truly looking for someone to take his application,” Kari said. “Young kid -- didn’t appear to be apprehensive at all.”
So far only Imhoff’s office was the only one in the building that reported a theft on Valentine’s Day, but that didn’t reassure other tenants. Not too long ago, someone entered a dental office through the back door and stole purses out of the breakroom. Employees now put their valuables in lockers, but they still don’t feel completely safe.
Karen Willis, an office manager for Anchorage Dental Arts, says she’s had her car broken into twice outside the building.
“I don’t leave anything in the car anymore,” Willis said. “I have nothing in there, I don’t even have my sunglasses in there -- I’ve learned my lesson.”
It’s a hard lesson for businesses to learn, according to Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Lt. Dave Parker.
“People need to be aware and people need to be wary, because these thefts happen all the time; this is not an unusual kind of event,” Parker said.
Another office building at 3950 Arctic Blvd. was targeted on Valentine’s Day, also in the morning. Police say an iPhone and a purse were stolen. No one saw the suspect, but neighboring businesses reported seeing a young man who was also looking for work and matched the description of the suspect in the other thefts.
Police are looking for a white male in his late teens or early twenties, between 5-feet-6-inches and 5-feet-10-inches tall, wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.
Officials say there could be two suspects working together, because businesses have given them descriptions of what could be two different men: one with short brown hair and clean-shaven, and the other with acne. They may be driving a beige-and-orange older model Ford pickup truck.
Investigators say they are hoping the public will provide more clues. Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to call APD at 786-8900.
Until the suspects are caught Parker urges workers, especially who work in small office buildings, to take precautions. He says thieves seek out businesses that don’t typically have surveillance cameras or full-time receptionists. Cell-phone and small-computer thefts are up in general.
“Don’t leave expensive items anywhere they can be easily pilfered,” Parker said. “They just tend to hit and run and get out and move on to the next office. They’re quite good at what they do.”
Contact Rhonda McBride at firstname.lastname@example.org