Connect with:
Thursday, October 19, 2017
HomeAlaska News‘They be going down at Barter Town’

‘They be going down at Barter Town’

PALMER RESIDENTS TAKE TO FACEBOOK TO FIGHT CRIME

Barter Town, Alaska.

It sounds like the latest Alaska-based reality show. It’s actually a compound not far behind a well-known mattress store on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, and it’s behind 8-foot fences that patchwork their way down one side of Richmond Lane.

From the street it looks a bit unkempt, but not any more so than many other places in Alaska.

Screen shot from the movie Mad Max.

In the movie Mad Max, Barter Town is a remote commerce outpost situated in the midst of the wasteland of the future. The original script describes it as a crowded square where “blacksmiths and wheelwrights hammer away at their trade, merchants tout their wares and men are trading. Chickens for grain, grain for alcohol, alcohol for sex. Directly in front of Max is a signpost which directs traders to the various delights and services of Bartertown: PARADISE ALLEY, GARDEN OF PLEASURE, BLACKSMITH, SMALL ANIMALS.”

In Palmer, Alaska, Barter Town on Richmond Lane is the scene of a neighborhood uprising over crime that they say has gotten out of control. The locals have taken to Facebook to inform each other about the possible nefarious activities happening nearby.

Cars come and go late at night down Richmond Lane, it’s reported on the Facebook group Stop Valley Thieves. Trucks pulling trailers full of stuff idle up to the gate. Things get unloaded from duffle bags. Lots of duffle bags, especially between 1-3 a.m.

Drone footage accessed by Must Read Alaska shows the extent of materials strewn across the scruffy lot. Either someone has a hoarding problem or there’s a lot of miscellaneous stuff for sale. Maybe your stuff.

What was a quiet family neighborhood four years ago has spiraled into a place where nearby residents sweep their driveways for spent drug needles, keep their kids out of the front yards, and worry about the passed-out druggies who sometimes  slump over the wheel of a car in front of the gated compound on the corner. There are fights on the street over merchandise and shouted demands for payments that are evidently not being honored.

If you’re hoping to go recover your stolen stuff in the Valley, you might want to head to Barter Town. On the other hand, you might not. No one really knows what is happening behind those fences. But the neighbors don’t feel safe.

A person in handcuffs is escorted by State Troopers on Richmond Road in Palmer, in front of a fenced-compound known as Barter Town.

 

Barter Town is a company known to the State of Alaska under license number 1055789. The man who appears to own and operate it is known to the Alaska Courts system for a handful of misdemeanors and is out on bail for a June arrest. He will face trial in November for intent to commit burglary, a Class A misdemeanor. More likely, he’ll cop a plea at his Oct. 16 pretrial conference.

Stop Valley Thieves members have had an eye on the Richmond Lane situation for months. The group’s administrators say that State Troopers know about what’s happening, but are under-staffed to make a case that will stick.

But they’re not ignoring it either. Someone in the Facebook group, which has over 15,600 members, posted a video of a man they know as Nicholas T. White being hauled off in handcuffs on Oct. 4 after a group of Troopers swarmed the gates. No charges have been filed yet, according to court records.

The person in handcuffs may or may not be White.

Kyle Muslin, who lives across the street, says it is White. Muslin has been documenting him for months.

Richmond Lane a place where he and his family no longer feel safe. His daughter sleeps with him and his wife in their bedroom, because at night things get pretty sketchy on that part of Richmond.

One day last summer, 30-40 lawnmowers showed up at the site, he said. Four-wheelers come and go. Chainsaws. Tools. Welding equipment. Weed-wackers.

And “dufflebags and dufflebags and dufflebags,” he said.

“The troopers told us the only way we can do anything is if someone identifies their stolen stuff,” Muslin said.

Doing so would mean going inside the fence, however. That’s private property.

Muslin keeps his security cameras rolling. When Must Read Alaska reached him this week, he was finishing up the installation of yet another camera. He has started posting photos of the comings and goings on the Stop Valley Thieves page, at times using the hashtag #ShutDownBarterTown.

At this point, he’s on a mission, and where the Troopers once thought he was just a disgruntled neighbor, they now text him notes of encouragement to keep up the pressure.

Like many others in the Stop Valley Thieves group, Muslin doesn’t hide his identity under a pseudonym. He and the others say it’s time for the community to stand up to the thieves and drug dealers. They’re taking the Crime Stoppers model to the next level: Social media.

But they also worry that at some point, some law-abiding citizen is going to get hurt. Several in the Facebook group, including himself, have been threatened. A driver tried to run him over with a truck in June. Another threatened him by saying he and his family would not “wake up in the morning.”

“I’m afraid for our safety every day,” Muslin said. “We have sort of put ourselves in the crosshairs. But there’s either going to be a gun fight right outside our doors or someone is going to shoot me, so I’m stuck with this. We couldn’t even sell our house if we tried. Who would buy it, with that going on?”

Some members of the Facebook group keep track of specific people, said Vicki Wallner, one of the group administrators. They video and photograph them, sometimes in the act of what appears to be a crime, and post the scenes on Stop Valley Thieves.

The Facebook vigilantes just share information. But even Wallner worries that someone will take the law into their own hands as the frustration with crime grows.

It’s not just Richmond Lane. Other places in the Valley draw similar concern by neighbors, she said.

There’s the house on Fairview Loop with a lot of junk cars and junkie types, and there’s a place known to locals as “The Compound,” where scary stuff goes on – people sleeping in abandoned cars on the property. Another place is described by critics as the “drug compound gravel pit crap hole.”

Others identify a sketchy house on Homebuilt Circle. The group is naming names of people they say are dealing drugs, using drugs, breaking into houses and stealing cars. When one of the suspects is arrested, they celebrate it and post the details of the arrest, along with their unfiltered opinions.

“They be going down at Barter Town!” posted one member in response to recent activity on Richmond Lane.

Other crime-stopper groups have sprung up on Facebook include a similarly named “Stop Valley Thieves Uncensored.” It has over 4,100 members. “Stolen in Alaska” has nearly 26,000 members. “Stolen Vehicles of Alaska” is a more narrowly focused self-help group. And a search found a dozen other groups dedicated to stopping theft and returning stolen items.

Where law enforcement has fallen short in Alaska, the Facebook community is stepping in, and facing personal peril as they take on criminals in a war they feel like they’ve been losing for too long.


MEETINGS IN VALLEY FOCUS ON CRIME

Meetings in the Mat-Su Valley are scheduled for coming days to discuss crime in advance of the legislative special session on Oct. 23, which will take up some criminal justice reform measures:

Oct. 10, 7:30-9:30 pm Alaska Republican Assembly Forum hosts “SB 91/ SB 54 Crime for Dummies” at the MTA Building, 480 Commercial Drive, Palmer, Alaska, downstairs. Guest speakers include Rep. Lora Reinbold, Stop Valley Thieves Administrator Vicki Wallner, Candidate for Lieutenant Governor Edie Grunwald, AKRA President Justin Giles, and Steve St. Clair.

Oct. 17, 5:30-7 pm, Talkeetna listening session with Sen. Mike Dunleavy at Upper Susitna Seniors, 16463 E. Helena Drive, Talkeetna.

Oct 18, 6-8 pm Public safety listening session with Sen. Mike Dunleavy at Teeland Middle School, cohosted by Rep. Cathy Tilton.

Donations Welcome
Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Barter Town is located off the Palmer Wasilla Highway, just a small correction. Also, there are over 13 thousand members on Mat Su Valley Crime Discussion, where Kyle Muslin is kind enough to share his posts with the group on occasion. It is a wild west type of group-enter with caution 🙂

  • Thank you Susan!

  • Keep up the good work, let’s make everyone aware of this drug/theft problem in our neighborhoods and eliminate them! Blow them up on social media!

  • Recently in the police blotter section of the valley ‘Frontiersman’, a couple things really caught my interest and blew me away! And one entry some 20-something kid gets caught driving with a bunch of heroin on him and noodles and bendle’s packaged up for sale. Rather than bust him, the cops actually wrote him a ticket to appear in court!
    In one of the following entries, a punk teenage kid roughs up his mother and breaks a bunch of dishes in the house and his dad comes home, takes his cell phone and privileges and does his best to tune up the out-of-line kid. The kid calls the cops saying his dad is being mean to him and the cops respond and as I understand, they are mandated to arrest somebody on a domestic call. The father gets arrested for being mean to his kid and gets held with no bail until he sees a judge.
    Does anybody else see something wrong with this picture? This is insanity! How can they let some punk junkie heroin dealer kid go with a ticket and throw a decent man in jail for trying to tune up the kid? It was the kid that did the domestic violence! This state has turned into a place where their priorities are totally upside down! What the hell can be done? Any reasonable suggestions or answers to get someone to do what’s right?

  • 8 years of fundamental change!!!

  • I hope all of these junkies OD and die.

  • There’s another place that’s growing in the butte area, it’s on the corner of”Our” red and the old Glenn, just a 1/4 mile from the old Delrose bar. The same group with the suspicious logging truck with wood forsale. Sadly someone is going to get killed before this is stopped.

  • It would help to go back to sending problematic reoffenders out of our state… Like way back when.

  • What house are you referring to on Fairview loop. I live on the loop and have no idea what house you are referring too. That’s an incredibly vague description and might cause problems for those homes that might have a lot of “junk” on the property with people jumping to conclusion and suspicion, gossip where this is no wrong doing. So I would suggest you out this home, with what evidence you have there is so people can be aware.

    • Not too hard to figure out where it is. The first picture shows a Trooper with someone in handcuffs.
      Might be good to read the article and look at the attached photos before you complain!

  • WHERE on Fairview Loop???

  • Ms. Suzanne…

    Love the story but would appreciate not giving the City of Palmer a blackeye in the process… with the tag of “Palmer residence take to Facebook to fight crime”.

    A little back ground on this property, it’s 6.5 miles from the Palmer City limits. It would take 10-12 minutes from the city limits to get to this property. So… Palmer residence they are not.

    Now we love everybody here in Palmer… and we are welcoming community… but come on please …

    Can’t they be Valley residence or Mat-Su residence? Heck it’s only 2.8 miles and 3-4 minutes from Wasilla City limits why not lay this at their feet.

leave a comment