The FBI said it’s seeing an uptick in gang activity in Anchorage and a lot of it seems to center around drugs.

Special Agent Mike Watson — a member of the Safe Streets Task Force, an interagency group that works to stop gang violence — said gangs have been active in Anchorage for years, but authorities haven’t always acknowledged it.

“It was kind of like the big thing in the room that no one wanted to talk about,” Watson said. “People don’t want to admit there’s a problem and it needs to be addressed.”

Watson called Anchorage a “melting pot “ for different kinds of gangs.

“We see a little bit of everything,” he explained. “We’ve seen, in the past, connections to Mexican cartels. We see hispanic gangs, we see white Aryan gangs, so it’s not just the Bloods and Crips.”

Former Anchorage police detective Scott Lofthouse agrees gangs are a problem in Anchorage, although he says they aren’t as large or as territorial as gangs are in the Lower 48.

“Our gangs up here are completely different than in the Lower 48, but they’re still violent,” Lofthouse said.

Lofthouse headed up a gang intelligence unit for the Anchorage Police Department that has since been disbanded, but he said the problem hasn’t gone away.

“It’s frustrating because I think the general public needs to know what’s happening out there on their streets,” Lofthouse said.

Watson said most of the gangs are involved in dealing drugs, and Anchorage, unfortunately, is a great place to do business.

According to Watson, dealers can easily make four or five times the profit selling drugs in Anchorage compared to California. He said prices are even higher in rural Alaska and criminals from outside will often fly here for a week or two to sell drugs and make as much money as they can.

“People from the Lower 48 or other areas can come up here and make a lot of money selling narcotics,” Watson said. “We will get people up here part time from some of the Lower 48 gangs to do that.”

Watson said much of the crime in Anchorage is also related to drugs. He said almost every recent bank robbery in town was committed by someone trying to get money to feed their habit.

When asked if there was something more to be done, Watson replied that stemming the flow of drugs into the state has proven to be very difficult. He said until the demand for drugs goes down, the problem is likely to persist.

KTVA 11’s Lauren Maxwell can be reached via email or on Twitter.

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