District 1: Downtown
I completely support bringing our police force back up to necessary staffing levels. With a fully staffed police force, officers will have time for community policing and being proactive in crime prevention instead of just running from one emergency to another. The best investments I've ever secured for our city have been support for our Community Patrol volunteers, and we should expand this program to neighborhoods throughout Anchorage. For very little capital we can create and support patrols where trained volunteers serve as visible deterrents and use their eyes and ears to prevent crime in their own neighborhoods.
Mark Alan Martinson
With crime on the increase and police response times often slow, we need to dedicate more time for our police to combat crime rather than acting as public-event police. We seem to be a city that celebrates having celebrations; and along with that economic model comes a requirement for more police time, particularly here in Anchorage where there is limited mass transit at later hours. The city also needs to coordinate the city and state agencies to help in the investigation of crimes, and communicate with the citizens who are the real "eyes on the street."
Albert Langdon Swank Jr.
Our local and state enforcement systems, courts, legal codes statutes and jail systems are all involved. Politicians like to state a simple solution for a complicated problem; this city administration is no different to thus obtaining votes. The object is to reduce crime and properly support the measure with its associated needs/changes as required that may include codes, statutes, jail systems, court systems, enforcement systems and the economics. Thus a simple statement is not as implied as stated and is intertwined and needs to be properly developed with the joint involvement of the other parties/agencies as needed with proper priorities.
We need an adequate number of police to serve our city. I fully agree with reinstating the two-person downtown foot patrols. I believe each patrol car should have partners when responding to trouble. Right now there are too few covering an area too big.
I support Mayor Ethan Berkowitz's effort to bring the police force to a full complement. The problems we face today are byproducts of the strategic disinvestment of a previous administration. Until we get back to a full force, we won't have units for gang, drug and other specialized teams. We can make Anchorage safer by recognizing each of us is responsible for our own safety as much as possible. The best way for the public to ensure safety is to actively engage in our public spaces and also to be connected well with one's neighbors. Neighbors make the difference.
On the surface expanding the police force is a great idea. However, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has no idea how to pay for this. He will simply add more and more financial burden to the working man and woman. He will most likely create a new tax of some sort to pay for these officers, rather than cutting his frivolous and out-of-control spending. Instead of asking us to choose between police or snowplows, how about police or flowers? Hiring the new officers is only step No. 1. It is important to remove the ties that bind the police officers and allow them to do their job.
District 2: Chugiak-Eagle River
Yes, I support increasing the number of police officers. The strain on public safety is real. With cooperation, APD and AST were able to reduce the dangerous influx of Spice last year. That epidemic alone overwhelmed our police, fire, paramedics and hospital emergency departments. We must support the pretrial revisions coming in January 2018 from the latest crime legislation and we need to give APD tools and staff to battle our opioid epidemic. Dealing with drug addiction in a strategy to combat recidivism should reduce the number of violent crimes committed due to illegal drug use and sales.
John Laurence Brassell
I am not against increasing our police force if it is necessary, but I would first like to look at other ways to bring safety and protection to our community before we commit to an increase in spending for additional officers. I am a huge supporter of our local law enforcement and they have my full and utmost respect. I would like to explore new and proven ways to increase security for our community, neighborhoods and schools, like Community Patrols and Neighborhood Watch programs that have training programs provided by law enforcement.
Our police force is inadequate for the present situation. The police dispatcher is flooded with calls and the department is prioritizing calls and sending the available officers to situations where there is injury. Property crimes and nuisance issues get shifted to the bottom of the list. Some citizens have waited eight hours for an officer. The police force may be able to be more effective, but they must have more police on the street. It will take time to recruit and train them, but the real issue is finding the money. Other city services will have to be cut.
Did not respond to questions.
District 3: West Anchorage
The police force numbers are not the issue, public safety is. The mayor and his police chief have not reduced crime nor contained it. If more police officers had made the city safer we would have evidence of that. The distribution of the police resource is the problem. Community policing needs to be implemented to stem crime and be proactive, not reactive. Our current model of police patrols is not effective. The goal should be to make Anchorage safer, not to count officers. When the police identify and then focus on the root cause of crime, our city is safer.
I support the target of 450 officers. I hope we are able to hire, train and get them on the street while still responding to what has been a tough period of serious crime. We can all help by being vigilant and reporting crime. We have a right to expect safety and security.
District 4: Midtown
It's better to focus on public safety and supporting families, first responders and marginalized communities than to focus on numbers. People want a person that really knows what it takes to make Anchorage a safer place. I've worn the uniform as an APD first responder, I work with our youth five days a week, I know what the concerns are and I can make a difference. It's not about numbers, it's about safety.
I believe that we must provide adequate police services for Anchorage's people and its businesses. Whether the police count should be 397 or 451 — I don't know. I will pledge to make sure everyone in Anchorage is properly served. Police protection is one of our most important public services.
I am against the expansion of the police department and I would not support that goal. I believe that Senate Bill 91, the criminal justice reform bill, needs to be repealed. The merry-go-round of "good" police ending with victim suffering and criminals going free has to stop. As for making Anchorage safer, residents must be involved more. More accountability and responsibility on the citizens of Anchorage — if they see it, report it. Crime prevention starts in the home and in our community, not a courtroom.
Yes, I support this goal. Based on our population and geography, 450 officers is a necessary force size and will give APD the capacity to be more strategic in how it fights crime. With increased capacity, our police force will be able to bring back foot patrol routes, specialized units, like theft, drug and traffic units, and focus on community action policing and building stronger relationships with neighborhoods. When I talk to my neighbors in Midtown, they are concerned about the quality of life in their neighborhoods. We can and will do better to keep our residents safe.
District 5: East Anchorage
Reducing crime comes down to proper deployment of our police resources and finding a district attorney who is willing to prosecute criminals. Last year there were 2,117 cars stolen in Anchorage, a 73 percent increase from the previous year. This increase is a direct result of provisions in SB 91, the criminal justice reform bill, that essentially gives criminals a pass when they commit certain crimes, such as theft or vandalism. As a city, we need to push back on those provisions, get tough on crime again, and empower our police officers with the tools they need to protect our community. That's what I'll bring to the Assembly.
Yes, I support rebuilding the police force to 450 officers and I have worked hard to put more cops on the street. When enough officers are on our police force we can add more people to our specialty units. The gangs, burglary, traffic, and drug units have been greatly reduced, because of too few officers on our force. With our current shortage of officers, they are only able to go from one 911 call to another. Additional officers will allow us to return to community policing to prevent crimes.
District 6: South Anchorage
When I speak with constituents from South Anchorage to Girdwood, their primary concern is public safety. The increase in crime is unacceptable to me. I understand the importance of leadership and working with the public safety department and our citizens to promote safety and security in our neighborhoods. As an Assembly member, I want to use our limited tax dollars wisely and effectively to provide the safe and secure community Anchorage residents deserve. Increasing the number of officers is only part of the solution. During these challenging economic times, we do not need to choose between snowplowing and public safety.
I support expanding APD. For a safer Anchorage, we must ask, what's behind the crime rate? Will community policing make a difference? If we don't fund education, then we'll end up funding jails. Strong public schools will help students gain the skills needed to work or continue their education. We need good jobs; we must be hospitable to business and provide an educated workforce. Another factor is drug use. Adults and kids need positive activities — both physical and mental — and places to engage in those activities. Recreation centers, trails and libraries are all necessary to make Anchorage safer.
Tomorrow: The candidates are asked about the way the Berkowitz administration is addressing homelessness.