One area where the Walker administration hopes to increase spending this coming budget year is in public safety.
Gov. Bill Walker is proposing a $34 million boost that includes:
– $4.8 million more for prosecutors and troopers;
– $18 million more for substance abuse treatment;
– $10.5 million to cover the cost of a growing prison population; and
– $500,000 more for public defenders.
Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth said Friday that she hopes to add five prosecutors, two in Anchorage, one each in Bethel and Kotzebue, and a statewide drug prosecutor to handle bigger cases.
"Obviously Anchorage is a concern with a record number of homicides, again," Lindemuth said. Crime is also increasing in Western Alaska, both property crime connected to opioid addiction and also violent crime, she said.
Walt Monegan, public safety commissioner, said his goal is to get troopers into rural communities more routinely and not just when they arrive to arrest someone.
"To do visits to give and not just to take," Monegan said. The proposed trooper budget includes travel money so that troopers can visit villages, talk to students, meet with tribal and city councils, and offer tips on how to stay safe. The goal, he said, is to provide "a calming effect."
He recently visited Kake in Southeast Alaska and Aniak on the Kuskokwim River. Residents of both communities were asking for more of a trooper presence, he said.
The budget proposal adds two investigators to focus on domestic violence and sexual assault. They will be funded by the Department of Public Safety but embedded with prosecutors, Lindemuth said. That ensures they will stay focused on those areas and won't get pulled out to work on other crimes, Monegan said.
The Walker budget does not add trooper positions. Alaska State Troopers already have open positions that are hard to keep filled, Monegan said.