Photos: Town Square Park users watched for research purposes

Chief Mark Mew watches Town Square from an upper level of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. The UAA Justice Center partnered with the Anchorage Police Department and the Anchorage Downtown Partnership to study Town Square Park. Over a two-week period, the university made observations and collected data on how people use the park, as well as looking at whether holding more activities in the park reduced bad behavior.
Marc Lester
UAA Justice Center student Daniel Reinhard, left, and Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew watch Town Square from an upper level of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. The UAA Justice Center partnered with the Anchorage Police Department and the Anchorage Downtown Partnership to study Town Square Park. Over a two-week period, the university made observations and collected data on how people use the park, as well as looking at whether holding more activities in the park reduced bad behavior.
Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch Ne
Troy Payne, UAA Justice Center professor (in green shirt near center), walks through Town Square on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. The UAA Justice Center partnered with the Anchorage Police Department and the Anchorage Downtown Partnership to study Town Square Park. Over a two-week period, the university made observations and collected data on how people use the park, as well as looking at whether holding more activities in the park reduced bad behavior.
Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch Ne
Marc Lester

For the last three years, Anchorage police have fielded mounting complaints from nearby businesses about disorderly behavior and criminal activity in Town Square Park,  a green space in the heart of the city, enshrined in the city’s comprehensive plan for the downtown area. People were being spotted using drugs, smoking Spice, having sex.

In early May, the Parks and Recreation department cut down nine spruce trees in the northeast corner of the park to improve visibility from the street and installed a metal railing along a concrete planter box. The tree removal infuriated the gardening community and advocates of the park, but businesses and city officials have since maintained that the actions improved the park’s safety.

Anchorage police Chief Mark Mew said the actual number of calls for service to APD for the Town Square Park area is surprisingly low, relative to the number of complaints in recent years. He pitched an idea: Deliberately pack the park with people, food vendors and events, and have university researchers study and record the effects.

Read more: University uses social experiment to study Town Square Park behaviors