Assembly member pushes for Turnagain Arm police service area through special election
Alaska State Troopers will stop regularly working in Turnagain Arm communities on May 1. While some people in the area do not view that as a problem, others are scrambling to find a solution.
Anchorage Assembly member John Weddleton is hoping people who live in communities between McHugh Creek and Portage will be able to vote on whether to have a new police service area. Weddleton is proposing a special election on April 4 — the same day as the regular municipal election — to allow people living in places like Rainbow, Bird Creek and Indian to vote on the issue.
If they vote for a new police service area, Anchorage police would begin responding to calls, but would not patrol the area. It would raise taxes by $50 annually for each $100,000 in property value. That would generate roughly $50,000 each year to pay for the Anchorage Police Department’s services. If the department does not use all of that money responding to incidents in the area, the money will roll over and taxes will decrease. If it uses all of the money, however, taxes can only be increased with another vote.
“I think it’s a fair tax and I’m willing to pay for the police service,” said Wendy Woolf, the vice president of the Turnagain Arm Community Council. “It’s a nice solution for what we need. We don’t have very many calls, but it’s nice to be able to know we can call somebody if there is an emergency.”
The idea of paying for police is not popular with everyone, especially because it would not fix a crucial problem: there will be no law enforcement agency regularly patrolling the Seward Highway along the northern edge of Turnagain Arm.
“We don’t need [police] out here, really,” said Indian resident Kay Russell. “I mean, the highway needs it, not us.”
He said the communities along the Turnagain Arm do not face the same crime issues as the rest of the Municipality of Anchorage.
“I don’t know of really anybody that’s called on the police because they needed help out here,” Russell said.
Weddleton agreed that the area has fewer crime issues than more urban parts of the municipality, which is why he said the idea for officers’ response without a patrol is sensible.
“There’s not a lot of crime there, certainly not a lot of serious crime,” Weddleton said. “Being response-driven for serious crimes — that seems to fit the area.”
In a letter to APD Chief Chris Tolley, trooper director Col. James Cockrell said troopers would continue to help APD “if they request specialized assistance.”
While the future of law enforcement is unclear in Turnagain Arm, the Anchorage Fire Department and medics will continue serving residents when they dial 911.
On Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly will vote whether to hold the special election. It will hold public testimony on the topic on March 7.
One area of the Turnagain Arm that already has a police force is Girdwood; Whittier police currently serve the town.
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