Anchorage community agrees with 9-year-old telling mayor, ‘I’m scared’
Tuesday, Anchorage surpassed last year’s number of homicides in the city. An early morning fatal shooting brought the count up to 26 for 2016, compared to 25 for 2015.
A day later, community members packed the North Star Elementary School cafeteria for the usual North Star Community Council meeting. But Wednesday night’s attendance was three to four times what it normally is because Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz was there to answer questions about public safety concerns.
The meeting was similar to other recent community meetings. People are very concerned about Anchorage’s homeless problem, and they want to know what is being done to combat the growing number of violent crimes.
But Wednesday evening, the mayor heard from one of Anchorage’s youngest residents scared for their safety when he took a question from 9-year-old Amalie Loki, who attends Rilke Schule Charter School.
“I’m scared […] there could be someone who’s gonna break into my house [because] there’s been so many crimes at the park across the creek from my house,” she said. “I feel like someone might come to my house.”
Community members in the room responded, “I agree with her,” “So do I,” and, “You are not alone.”
Berkowitz answered, “What I’ll tell you is what I tell my own kids, which is you make sure that you say goodnight to your parents so that they know where you are, and stay in your bed, and then you make sure that your parents have locked the doors, and I think you’ll be safe. The problems that exist in this city are outside, and it almost never, ever, ever comes inside people’s homes.”
The mayor also told the group the Municipality of Anchorage is already working on improving lighting on the trails, and they’re growing the police force, something he said he sees as a major factor in dealing with Anchorage’s crime problems.
One man addressed what he called “the elephant in the room,” the question of when will people start to see that change.
“When will the police department be fleshed out and be in full force?” he asked. “What’s your time frame for that? Will it happen during your term, or your next term or someone else’s next term? I think that’s the big question right now, when do we get more police?”
Berkowitz said it’s happening now.
“We’ve run three academies this year, three police academies,” he said. “In the prior six years, there were three years where they didn’t run any academies.”
He said there are currently 386 sworn officers in Anchorage, and that the department needs at least 450 to transition from a reactive police department to a proactive one that deters crime.
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