Anchorage’s police chief says he’s not deterred by the city’s first 2018 homicide taking place mere minutes into the new year, saying officers are committed to solving the crime as they tackle a range of local safety concerns.

“I think that it doesn’t really matter to APD when a homicide occurs,” Chief Justin Doll said in an interview Tuesday. “An arbitrary timeframe like [Jan. 1] doesn’t really make much of a difference to us – every single case is important, every single victim is important.”

APD spokespersons declined to release anything further Tuesday about the fatal shooting of Timothy Smith near 4th Avenue and D Street at about 12:15 a.m. Monday, in which police have been seeking a silver SUV seen nearby at the time. According to Doll, police believe Smith’s shooting was a targeted crime.

“I think it falls into that category,” Doll said. “I don’t think it’s a random thing, where people should be worried that someone’s wandering around.”

One factor in Anchorage’s crime situation, Doll said, is what he has referred to as the “lag time” involved in seeing criminal-justice decisions’ effects throughout the community.

“That certainly plays a part; whether it’s changing crime rates or changing the size of the police department, that takes time to happen,” Doll said. “It also takes time to unhappen.”

As an example, Doll cited a recent wave of police academies which have increased APD’s ranks to about 420 sworn officers.

“It’s like an 18-month pipeline to get new police officers into the police department,” Doll said. “We started that in the second half of 2015, and we’re just starting to see the results.”

Doll said APD is still determining new officers’ assignments within the department, but they’ll probably be used to bolster existing units’ staffing rather than create new ones like the high-profile Investigative Support Unit formed last year.

Another significant change, Doll said, is improving APD’s outreach to the community and its presence in neighborhoods.

“I really want to see officers that are assigned to patrol have a kind of permanency to the part of town that they’re assigned to police in,” Doll said. “It’s really beneficial to the officer, and also the businesses and residents of that piece of town – it’s mutually beneficial.”

Local government officials, including Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, have been on board with APD’s efforts, according to Doll.

“I think that this administration and the Assembly and just this city as a whole has been extremely supportive of everything that we’ve been doing,” Doll said.

Asked about online comments branding Alaska’s largest city “Los Anchorage” due to its crime rate, including a record-breaking 2017 homicide toll of 35 deaths, Doll said he remains optimistic.

“I’ve lived in Anchorage a long time, and I’ve seen Anchorage kind of swing through different cycles and we’re obviously doing that again now,” Doll said. “I still think Anchorage is a great place to live; I couldn’t be happier that I had the opportunity to grow up here.”

Daniella Rivera contributed information to this story.

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