New APD unit arrests 51 violent felons in 2 months
Anchorage Police say you're safer tonight than you were two months ago, thanks to their new Investigative Support Unit.
On Dec. 28, ISU members arrested 31-year-old Zarin Freeman, charged with kidnapping, robbing and assaulting a man last year. He's one of 51 violent criminals the unit taken off the streets in just eight weeks.
“I can tell you there'll be 51 people, if they go to jail, that won't be committing crimes anymore,” says Lt. Michael Kerle, head of the 10-person unit charged with finding the city's most violent offenders.
Kerle credits ISU's success to an increase in sworn police officers. Three years ago, APD had just 340 officers on the street; today, that number has grown to 420.
“It gives the chief flexibility to implement strategies that have been proven to work in the Lower 48," Kerle said. "He's implementing them up here in Alaska and Alaska's a better place for it.”
Kerle says 18 percent of Anchorage's convicted criminals are committing 50 percent of the city's crime, citing Freeman as an example.
Police say that in November 2016, Freeman and four other previously arrested suspects forced a 19-year-old man into a car at knife point, used his card to withdraw money from an ATM and then drove him to his home in Eagle River where they stole thousands of dollars of his property. Officers got a tip that Freeman, part of a group investigators say stole more than 500 items worth about $100,000, was visiting a sick family member at Providence Alaska Medical Center.
“We went to Providence hospital, and sure enough he was in Providence hospital and we arrested him,” Kerle said.
A few of the team’s other successes came last month, when ISU arrested Charles Soper, who police say was carrying a stolen handgun. A few weeks after that it was Dahmir Hale, who was wanted on federal charges for selling crack cocaine.
Kerle says detectives and patrol officers give his unit the names of the worst criminals, and members work with federal, state and local agencies to bring them down. His officers also have unmarked police cars and can work undercover, or on 24-hour shifts. The new unit frees up patrol officers to respond to the community's immediate safety needs, while the ISU team focuses on the most violent felons.
“We'll never stop," Kerle said. "As long as there's criminals out there, we'll be out there looking for them.”
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