Crime, trooper staffing top Mat-Su legislative priorities
Crime and Alaska State Trooper staffing top the list of legislative priorities for the Mat-Su Borough.
On Thursday, borough Assembly members met with the Mat-Su delegation to discuss the issues they want the state Legislature to take up during this year's session.
A recent UAA Justice Center study shows troopers in the Valley are drastically understaffed. Assembly members would like to see a total of 85 positions in the Mat-Su over the next three years.
Not every Assembly member was on board with that goal, however.
"Forget the troopers; they're not going to decrease crime," said member George McKee. "A cop going by my house at 65 miles per hour once a month does not deter crime; you have to do everything else. You have to change [criminal justice reform measure Senate Bill 91], you have to open the courthouse again, you have to put in more detectives."
McKee was a vocal minority in the group. Most people agreed an increase in trooper staffing would benefit the community, but only if something was done to fix SB91.
"The state screwed this up and the borough is trying to fix the part of the problem the state caused," said District E state Sen. Mike Shower. "Part of it was law changes, part of it was reducing staffing for troopers when we need them even more; we're going the wrong direction."
With the Meadow Lakes and Talkeetna trooper posts now closed, District F Sen. Shelley Hughes asked about the possibility of finding alternate housing for troopers at the area fire station.
She said work has already begun on efforts to repeal or replace SB91.
"The presence of law enforcement does deter criminals, but the policy has to be fixed," Hughes said. "You can have troopers on every corner and if the policy isn't such to deter crime, you still have a problem."
Hughes said lawmakers' annual meeting with the Assembly helps them determine which issues are important to their constituents.
"The voice locally really matters when we get to Juneau," Hughes said. "We have to understand what's going on back home. Connecting with the Assembly, the issues they're facing is very tied into what we do at the state level."
There will be a legislative town hall later this week for people to meet with their elected officials. That's on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Mat-Su Senior Center in Palmer.
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