Investigation: Stairs To Nowhere
There is a big problem in one Anchorage neighborhood that is attracting crime and spreading police resources thin.
Original Article Posted October 13, 2009
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CBS 11 News) There is a big problem in one Anchorage neighborhood that is attracting crime and spreading police resources thin.
Police know the stairwell that connects 15th Ave. and Nichols St. to 15th Ave. and Norene Street in Airport Heights as the stairs to nowhere. To neighbors they're an eye sore and a crime magnet.
The stairs were meant to provide a safe route to school and the bus stop and connect the neighborhood. But at night, these stairs have become something no one intended.
"It is providing a hang out for teenagers and drug dealers and gang bangers and some not so nice folks," says Ed Olmstead who owns a home near the stairs, "It has become a focal point for petty crime here in the neighborhood."
During the day, the community takes the stairs back- but the remnants of the night before are unmistakable. The stairs are covered in gang graffiti, broken glass, and an overpowering scent of urine and vomit.
"Lots of trash, and remnants from parties the night before," explains Aleta Slanga. "I wouldn't walk them at night."
Police have responded to calls in the neighborhood 11 times in the last six months. Five for crimes on the stairs, involving underage drinking, warrant arrests and noise violations.
"We've had a lot of problems with drug deals on this street this summer, the police were called out here several times, there was a fire bomb let off here in the street," says Olmstead.
"It's part of the larger crime issue that we as a community really need to address," says Lt. Dave Parker, spokesperson for the Anchorage Police Department.
One assembly member says because the stairs appear to be on a municipality road right of way, the Municipality of Anchorage is to blame for what they have become.
"What we did is we built a path and we left a no man's land next to it," says Anchorage Assembly member Sheila Selkregg, "So it is an abandoned kind of area right next to the path and there is no sense of ownership."
With the help of Assembly member Elvi Grey-Jackson, neighbors circulated a petition to tear the stairs down, but it'll cost an estimated $30,000. It is money the city does not have just laying around.
Some say a more feasible solution would be to clean things up.
"If you take the stairs out, in many ways that means the gangs have won 2:19:10 there are some examples elsewhere, every time we step back from gangs, they step foreword." Says Selkregg. "It would make a lot more sense to get ahead of graffiti."
The problem is, Anchorage's Graffiti Buster has gotten hit with the municipality budget cuts.