The level of crime in Anchorage is unacceptable. In a short span of time, Anchorage has gone from a city most residents believed was relatively safe to a city in which hardly any citizen has not been directly impacted by crime in some manner. Working to reduce the incidence of crime must be at the top of the next Mayor’s list of priorities.
We must, however, face reality. Politicians have limited ability to quickly counteract crime waves. There are no magic bullets or quick solutions. Fighting back a crime wave requires relentless and unwavering effort over a prolonged period. The societal factors that lead to increased crime are interrelated and multifaceted. So, too, are the approaches which must be put in place in order to measurably reduce crime.
The threshold pieces that must be in place are well-known: (1) a sufficient number of sworn police officers; (2) the proper strategic use and deployment of police resources; and (3) proper Municipal laws in place to serve as an effective deterrent.
As a starting point we must have enough sworn police officers in order to ensure acceptable response times and the ability for pro-active police patrolling. The Police Executive Resource Forum (“PERF”) study that spanned 2010-2016 (completed before our most alarming increase in crime rates) recommended that Anchorage have 447 sworn officers. That figure should serve as our goal.
But just having the right number of sworn officers is not an end in itself. The use and deployment of those officers must be strategically planned to achieve a noticeable and sustainable reduction in crime. This requires flexibility and constant evaluation and reevaluation by both the police department management and the Mayor’s office. If the use and deployment of our police resources is not achieving the desired goal of significantly reducing crime, we cannot be too stubborn, too complacent or too timid to adjust our approach. We must be constantly assessing, reassessing and readjusting our allocation of assets until we see unmistakable progress being made.
Although most serious crimes in Anchorage are charged under State law, Municipal Code can play an important role in providing enforcement tools for law enforcement. Accordingly, the next Mayor needs to work with the Municipal Law Department to ensure that the Municipal Code provides for sufficient, just, and well-thought-out enforcement tools for those crimes which can be charged under the Municipal Code. I believe my personal background as a former police officer and an attorney will be a decided asset in working alongside the police department and the municipal law department in meeting these goals.