Fighting drug use in Anchorage is a community effort, police say
Anchorage witnessed a record 34 homicides in 2016. Property crime also rose compared to the year before, with the number of commercial burglaries and robberies making a significant jump. The Anchorage Police Department said increased drug use is likely a major factor in the rise in crime.
Police Chief Chris Tolley said APD is just one of many entities responsible for improving the situation.
“This isn’t just an APD issue,” he said. “It involves the entire community.”
Before becoming the department’s chief in late 2015, Tolley ran the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) Anchorage office for four years. He said dealing with drug use and abuse in Alaska comes with unique challenges because drugs arrive in smaller quantities compared to cities like Los Angeles and Baltimore.
“That network of distribution — it doesn’t really exist in Alaska,” Tolley explained. “That’s why you don’t see the large, metric-ton cases in Alaska.”
He said as more officers join APD, the department will be able to further its proactive police work, which in turn should decrease drug use and crime. However, Tolley said lawmakers, the judicial system, rehabilitation centers and the public share the responsibility in curbing Anchorage’s drug habit.
“We need to do it together,” Tolley emphasized.
Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion agreed that a group effort is necessary to find a solution.
“It’s not a law enforcement problem,” Campion said. “It’s a community problem.”
Young people are often victims of violent crime in Anchorage. Campion recommended that parents should better engage with their children to ensure they know what their kids are up to and whether they might be making poor choices.
“My hope is that by reaching out through the media to the community, that could get parents, guardians and other leaders in the community to be more involved and more vigilant to stop these things from happening,” he said.
Campion said while he and his colleagues are dealing with more cases, their resolve to accomplish their mission remains the same.
“Violent crimes are still heavily penalized under Alaska law, and we’re aggressively prosecuting those cases. That’s our primary focus,” Campion said.
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