Two downtown Anchorage agencies have launched a security hotline that officials say is aimed at cleaning up downtown and helping visitors feel safe and comfortable.
Under what's being called the "Safety First" program, anyone downtown can call or text 907-297-4471 to report a problem. That could range from someone being harassed to seeing trash on a sidewalk, said Andrew Halcro, executive director of the Anchorage Community Development Authority.
The program is a partnership between the Anchorage Community Development Authority, which manages the city's parking meters, garages and the downtown bus depot, and the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, an organization supported by downtown businesses that deploys yellow-vested security "ambassadors" to patrol the streets. Earlier this year, Halcro and Jamie Boring, the downtown partnership's executive director, said they were working to combine security forces to add more "eyes and ears" downtown.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, officials said the phone line can be used to request "services that cover safety assistance, disorderly/suspicious behavior, panhandling or other nuisance behavior, public drinking/inebriates, suspicion of drug dealing or drug use."
People can also make calls for "graffiti, removing trash, sidewalk cleaning, or other clean up calls" downtown, the statement said. The calls connect to the ACDA's dispatch center.
The program has emerged as Anchorage's stretched police department has focused more on violent crimes than public nuisances. But Halcro emphasized Monday that the "Safety First" program is not meant to substitute a police call.
"The rule is still what's always been the rule — in case of an emergency, you call 911," Halcro said. "Our number is to call for those times when you see something suspicious but you're not seeing a crime, and you just want someone to know about it."
Launching the hotline is particularly aimed at people who don't come downtown very often and need to be reassured that it is a safe place to be, Halcro said.
Halcro did not have a cost breakdown for the program Monday. He said his agency was already spending money on training for security staff, and the biggest investments have been in technology and communication upgrades.