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Dutch Harbor, Alaska: The police blotter read 'round the world

The weekly cop report documents what happens when thousands of fishermen from all over the world descend on one small port: bar fights, eagle attacks, dockside melees and more.

February 05, 2009|Kim Murphy

DUTCH HARBOR, ALASKA — It was shortly after 7 in the morning when police spotted the man on a bicycle, a smear of blood around his mouth and more dribbling from cuts on his forearms.

But he had an explanation.

An ex-girlfriend "turned me on to vampirism," he told the officers, but he was ready to put all that behind him. Was there somewhere he could find a priest?

"Officers advised the man to conceal his predilection, in order to avoid alarming the public," said the police report, apparently mindful of the trouble that can ensue in a boisterous fishing port when the public gets alarmed.

The weekly police blotter that chronicles the bar fights, eagle attacks, yowling foxes, distraught psychics and dockside melees in Dutch Harbor -- part of the small city of Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands, about 800 miles southwest of Anchorage in the Bering Sea -- has become a must-read all over Alaska and other far-flung parts of the globe.

"I got an e-mail not long ago from Scotland, a child psychologist, writing about one of our registered sex offenders," said publisher Veda Webb of the Unalaska Advertiser, which along with the Dutch Harbor Fisherman posts the stuff of day-to-day life in this town of about 4,000 on its website.

"Two weeks ago, I heard from the Mensa chapter in Pennsylvania. Or was it Tennessee?" said Webb, referring to the social network for those of unusually robust intelligence. "They said the person that writes this police thing is probably the only person in Unalaska that qualifies for Mensa."

A literate, witty and often hilariously calm voice of reason in this outpost of human foibles, the Unalaska police report documents what happens when thousands of fishermen from all over the world descend on one small port for shore leave:

Bunkhouse roommates throw lamps and nightstands at each other. Ethiopian and Somali immigrants engage in raucous but obscure tribal disputes. Drunks pass out -- in ditches, on bar stools, in other people's bunks and in unfamiliar living rooms.

"Harbor officer reported shots had been fired at or near the Spit Dock," said a blotter entry from a cold January night. "Officers obtained information suggesting someone on board a . . . vessel had been firing a gun sporadically over the last week, with several shots coming near pedestrians, vehicles and vessels. . . . Yuriy Gureev admitted to firing a .22 rifle several times in the last week, allegedly aiming at the Dumpster."

Four nights later, someone set off a seal bomb -- a concussion grenade used to scare seals away from fishing grounds -- in the parking lot of the Grand Aleutian. Last week, the hotel's former bartender got arrested on suspicion of driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.345%, four times the legal limit.

"A woman in California called and asked an officer to tell her husband's Unalaska mistress not to phone their house anymore," the blotter reported.

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Sgt. Jennifer Shockley, a wildlife biologist from Texas who joined the Unalaska police force 11 years ago, is the author of the weekly "activity report."

"What you get basically is drinks, drugs and domestic violence. That's pretty much our three Ds," said Shockley, who also has served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon and trained police forces with the United Nations in Kosovo.

A slight woman with an easy laugh who manages to look intimidating when she strolls through the local bars in her heavy boots, Shockley has honed the art of understatement in her reports.

Take the one about the local bad boys -- the bald eagles who lurk on almost every treetop, fence and Dumpster, glaring at passersby.

"Three juvenile boys phoned police and reported they had taken refuge inside a piece of playground equipment because they were in fear of imminent attack by a bald eagle," the report read one day last summer. "The suspect eagle hissed and puffed his chest feathers at the responding officer before flying from the area."

In some blotter items, however, she employs poetic devices. Notice the alliteration:

"A herd of hostile horses harassed a cyclist as he was riding his bike near Morris Cove," one said. "The complainant positively identified the suspect equine. The responding officer informed the cyclist that the stallions might be gelded soon, with resultant decreased testosterone levels and concomitant displays of aggressive behavior."

"Some calls are amusing from the moment our dispatcher gets the request for service," Shockley told the Dutch Harbor Fisherman recently, "and others simply become silly as they progress."

Most Americans know Dutch Harbor as the home base for "Deadliest Catch," the Discovery Channel series about the insanely perilous crabbing expeditions that battle 30-foot waves, subzero temperatures and ice that has to be knocked off the railings with baseball bats. (The show's popularity, along with word spread on the blogo- sphere, has a lot to do with the police blotter's notoriety.)

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