The Anchorage Police Department is trying a different approach to policing downtown. Starting this week, a pair of officers on each of APD’s three shifts will walk around the downtown area. The two officers will talk to business owners, shoppers and tourists about their concerns and changes they would like to see.


Officers Jacquie Valencia and Aaron Pettus volunteered to be a part of the patrol. Pettus said he usually doesn’t have the chance to meet people in a proactive context.


“It’s very rare nowadays for the citizens to be able to have the opportunity to speak to an officer when they’re not on calls and actually have a full-blown conversation about what’s going on in their community,” Pettus said.


Valencia echoed his sentiment, adding that the foot patrols are an important step in further building trust between the police and the people they protect.


“We have so much support in our community, we just need to hold on tight to that,” she said.


Many business owners were supportive of the patrols. Jana Hayenga, owner of the Cabin Fever shop on Fourth Avenue, said she has recently had items stolen from the store.


“They dash in, they grab something and dash out,” she said. “And when there’s [police] presence on the street, we see less of that.”


Pettus and Valencia made at least one arrest Friday night, when they discovered a man had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant. It was a reminder of the officers’ responsibility to enforce the law.


Still, Valencia emphasized their effort to be approachable.


“Don’t be scared. We’re here for you guys, so just come up and have a conversation,” she said.


Cops on bicycles police the downtown area in the summer months, then serve as school resource officers during the winter. Officers last patrolled downtown on foot in the 1990s. This time, they will be patrolling the area between Third and Sixth Avenues between Cordova and L Streets.


The new patrols are made possible in part by an increasing number of APD officers on the force; a new class of academy graduates is scheduled to graduate next week.


KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.


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