Anchorage Police Department Chief Mark Mew has announced the creation of a special task force designed to crack down on activities that have led to the recent string of shootings in Anchorage since the new year.

During a press conference Thursday, Mew explained the task force will be compiled of officers currently on staff with APD in special units, taken off their usual duties to focus on building cases and arresting people associated with the drug rings believed to be causing the recent violence.

“We are going to be going out contacting those people, serving search warrants like crazy. Taking on things one step to the next, shaking down everything that moves on the street,” Mew said. “We decided to combine three of our special units for a short period of time, a week or two depending on how things go.”

Twenty-year-old Jeanpal Borge was the latest victim involved in one of the shootings in Anchorage this month, which has sparked the major response by police. The homicide happened early Thursday morning in the parking lot of a business at Bragaw Street and San Jeronimo Court. No arrests have been made in connection with that case.

Borge is the fourth person killed this week and Mew said Thursday evidence suggested they are all connected to drugs. At least seven other people have been wounded this month in shootings.

Mew says marijuana was involved in many of the recent shootings. He and other officers are wondering if drug dealers are jockeying for position as the state’s new pot laws come into effect.

“If the folks out there are looking at the potential for a change in the landscape and wondering how they fit into it, and they are trying to maneuver, I wonder if that’s not part of what is going on, I don’t know that it is,” Mew said.

The police union isn’t surprised about the level of drug-related crime.

“We have seen reductions in our drug units at APD,” said Sgt. Gerard Asselin of the APD Employees Association. “We have about half the number of people investigating drug crimes as we’ve had in the past.”

Asselin said the union supports the new task force, but the officers are being pulled from other work that also needs to get done.

“We need to maintain staffing at a point to keep pressure on the criminal element and let them know that, ‘If you do this, you will be caught,’ basically,” Asselin said.

Mew said the last crackdown on drug rings was in 2007, and within a few days there was a big success, one he’s hoping to replicate again.

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