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Episode 82: Holding the line on Alaska crime

By KTVA Alaska 11:58 AM November 21, 2016

 
Anchorage set a new milestone this past week — it wasn’t a good one.

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, the city counted its 29th homicide of the year, after a man shot and killed a mechanic at a South Anchorage auto shop.

The number of killings in Anchorage for 2016 now ties a record set in 1995 for the most homicides in one year. This latest tragedy also comes just days after a downtown shootout, that ended a suspect’s life and wounded a police officer. After the shooting, investigators discovered the suspect’s gun was used in five murders this year.

The combination of circumstances, coupled with the recent shooting death of a Fairbanks police officer, raises a lot of questions about crime in our state, especially in our biggest city.

This week on Frontiers, we look at some of the numbers — from homicides to police staffing, as well as the increasingly violent nature of street crime and what the city plans to do to combat it.

It’s a troubling snapshot. Some of the highlights from this week’s show:

  • Roots of crime in Anchorage: We hear perspectives from Ken Spadafora and Ma’o Tosi. Spadafora is a 38-year veteran of the Anchorage Police Department, who recently retired as deputy chief. Ma’o Tosi is a founder of AK Pride, a group that targets at risk youth. He and players on East High’s 1994 championship basketball team have a surprising connection to James Ritchie, the man who was killed during the Nov. 12 attack on APD officer Arn Salao.
  • Heroin in Rural Alaska: At the Alaska Municipal League conference in Anchorage, many leaders from Rural Alaska identified heroin as a problem in their community.
  • This week’s guests: We are joined by former Anchorage mayor Rick Mystrom and Sen. Bill Wielechowski. Although one is a Republican and the other is a Democrat, both see consistent police staffing as a key to keeping violent crime in check.

This week, we take a deeper dive into what causes Anchorage’s roller coaster cycles of violence, recognizing the picture is much more complicated than can be addressed in one program.  There are number of issues raised in this show we hope to tackle in the future.

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