‘Limitless amounts of money, as long as they’re not caught’

(Video by Marc Lester, Anchorage Daily News)

In the northernmost city in the United States, Barrow police say enforcing the local ban on alcohol sales is a top priority for detectives like Det. Sgt. Nick Sundai. Head of investigators for the North Slope Borough Police Department, Sundai said his unit has several unique tools to suppress bootleg booze.

Among them:

– The department earlier this year stationed detectives in Fairbanks and Anchorage to look for warning signs. Police eyeball incoming cargo to look for suspicious packages, when carriers will allow it.

– Banjo, a German Shephard, is trained to sniff out alcohol hidden in luggage and packages. Det. Sgt. Sundai says intercepting booze before it gets to Barrow and surrounding villages means less crime for police to react to fewer DUIs, assaults and sexual assaults.

But the demand is great and profits are large, he says.

“For the most part, one of the highest profit-margin items you can bring in…would be hard alcohol, i.e. Rich and Rare Canadian Whiskey. A lot of that comes in here. Monarch Vodka. Usually in plastic bottles that you can burp. We’ve seen it where they take apple juice container and empty those out and pour the R&R in there. So, in Barrow, an alcohol bottle will go for about a hundred bucks. If you shipped through cargo, you might incur some kind of shipping, so that kind of takes away from your profit. But at $100 a bottle and you bought the bottle at nine to ten bucks or whatever. So there’s your profit margin, usually about $75 or so.”

Originally published November 29, 2013 in Anchorage Daily News.