• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 39s

Crime on the rise in Town Square Park

By Kirsten Swann 4:51 PM October 5, 2013

Businesses, police concerned by persistent problem

ANCHORAGE – It was a sunny Friday afternoon, and the three people sitting on a bench in Town Square Park were passing around a pipe filled with an unknown substance.

Soon, the group had grown to more than a dozen people, surreptitiously drawing from the small pipe and passing it along to the next person. Shoppers, workers on their lunch breaks and mothers pushing children in strollers passed by on the sidewalk just a few feet away.

“It’s probably Spice,” said Officer Cyndi Addington, who’s spent months patrolling the area, trying to fight rising crime at the popular downtown park.

Statistics compiled by the Anchorage Police Department show calls for service at the park have been on the rise in recent years, and local business owners say they’ve seen the disturbing trend firsthand.

“I’ve seen drinking, I’ve seen marijuana smoking, I’ve seen indecent exposure and nudity,” said Brian Williams, who manages the 6th Ave. Outfitters just across the street from Town Square Park. “The problem with all of those crimes – and they seem relatively minor – is that they’re day to day.”

Businesses like Kobuk Coffee Co. and the Alaska Native Arts Foundation have installed additional security systems and surveillance cameras to fight the growing problem, but the measures have done little to curb the wave of crime.

“To me, since 2006 it has really gotten worse down here,” said Carrie Swanson, who’s worked across the street from the park for several years.

Nina Bonito Romine, co-owner of Kobuk Coffee Co., said she and her employees work to keep the property free of human waste and drug paraphernalia on a daily basis. Metal grates cover the back windows of her store following a streak of vandalism. Romine said her shop, which abuts Town Square Park, was forced to close a back patio space when the smell of illicit activity in the park made it unbearable to customers.

”It’s definitely gotten worse,” she said.

Addington said officers’ efforts to combat crime in the park are frustrated by slight resources and repeat offenders. Five school resource officers police the downtown area on bikes during the summer months, but when school resumes in the fall, the park is monitored only by regular patrols. And when officers arrive at the park in response to a call, Addington said the perpetrators scatter, only to return as soon as the police move on.

“This should be where you want to bring your children and your families,” she said. “I don’t want to do that right now with this kind of activity going on in this park.”

Romine agrees.

“People ask me, you know, ‘Is it safe to go through the park?’” she said. “I say ‘No, if I were you I would walk around,’ which is sad.”

Standing in the sun outside the Performing Art Center, Addington prepared to go break up the crowd loitering on the concrete risers in the park. The pipe had disappeared when her squad car pulled up to the curb, but the crowd remained, waiting and watching.

“This is the pride of Anchorage right here,” she said, looking towards the otherwise-empty town square. “I think we’re failing.”

Latest Stories

  • News

    Presbyterian church first to present statewide apology at AFN

    by Liz Raines on Oct 22, 19:50

    It was an historic moment for the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Saturday. For the first time, a religious organization came before an AFN convention to apologize to Alaska Native people from across the state for its hand in cultural oppression. Another milestone for AFN, 50 years after its creation. “You did nothing wrong. You were […]

  • News

    Alaska veterans receive warm welcome home after Honor Flight

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 22, 19:05

    A group of Alaska veterans returned Saturday from Washington D.C., where they visited our nation’s war memorials thanks to Last Frontier Honor Flight. The crowd waiting for their arrival at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport applauded as the veterans disembarked to the sounds of bagpipes from the Alaska Celtic Pipes and Drums (ACPD). The 23 […]

  • News

    SAVEarth project aims to provide homeless Alaskans with boots

    by Eric Ruble on Oct 22, 18:28

    While many Alaskans are celebrating the first snow of the season, it marks the beginning of a tough time of year for people living outdoors. A group from the Lower 48 is working to help Anchorage’s homeless in a big way. SAVEarth is assembling 1,100 pairs of boots with the help of volunteers. Each pair […]

  • News

    Whittier police begin patrolling Girdwood on short-term contract

    by Eric Ruble on Oct 22, 18:12

    After roughly three weeks without any law enforcement stationed in Girdwood, there are now Whittier Police Department (WPD) officers patrolling the town. It is the result of a short-term contract between the Girdwood Board of Supervisors, the Municipality of Anchorage and WPD that lasts through the end of the year. After the contract expires, there […]

  • Troopers: Selawik man dead after early morning fight

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 22, 16:47

    One man is dead and another is in custody after a fight broke out in the village of Selawik early Friday morning, Alaska State Troopers say. Troopers were notified of the fight at about 1:30 a.m., a dispatch explained, when someone from the village contacted them, saying 38-year-old Roscoe Cleveland had died after a fight. […]

  • Law enforcement raids Bethel house used by suspected drug dealers

    by Charles Enoch / KYUK on Oct 22, 16:28

    This story originated from KYUK Public Media and was republished with permission. BETHEL — State troopers, investigators and local police raided a house in Bethel this week and recovered heroin, crack cocaine, money and drug paraphernalia. They arrested seven people. According to the Alaska State Trooper dispatch, the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit with local State and Wildlife Troopers […]

  • News

    Night-drop kennels: A warm, safe place for stray animals

    by Bonney Bowman on Oct 22, 15:58

    With the season’s first blanket of snow on the ground and temperatures dropping, a night outside is tough for lost pets. Anchorage Animal Care and Control (AACC) provides a warm, safe place if you find an animal and can’t take it home for the night. On the backside of the facility, the night-drop kennels are […]

  • A sign of respect: A kuspuk history lesson

    by Megan Edge on Oct 22, 15:01

    From attendees to politicians to members of the media, men and women dress their best at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) convention in Fairbanks. But dressing in your Sunday best is different in Alaska, especially at AFN. Here, people trade in their high-heeled shoes, suit jackets and ties for traditional Alaska Native garb, […]