The chair of the state House's Judiciary Committee added a bill Friday to this session's growing stack of crime legislation, introducing a measure targeting frequent thieves.

House Bill 98 from Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, would allow prosecutors to combine the values of goods stolen from stores within a 180-day period by the same suspect. If that value reaches $750 to $25,000, a suspect could be charged with second-degree theft — a felony — rather than various misdemeanor theft counts.

The bill would also make possessing vehicle-theft tools a misdemeanor and would add identification documents to the list of qualifying items involved in fraudulent use of an access device.

HB 98 joins Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s four crime bills as they begin to get hearings, along with other measures by House members.

One would close the "Schneider loophole," named after an Anchorage man whose please deal for a brazen assault resulted in no jail time. Another would establish stiffer sentences for auto theft, a crime that saw a record Anchorage high in 2017 but fell last year.

Claman, however, says new legislation must be backed up by additional resources such as more prosecutors and law enforcement.

“Where you really start with public safety is actually budget issues,” Claman said. “We really have to continue our commitment to police and prosecutors. Last year we added five prosecutors. Just today during the house subcommittee on the Department of Law budget we talked again about adding five more prosecutors. Because that’s the best way we can really show the public that we’re making them safer. That we actually have the resources to prosecute people.”

On Monday, House Judiciary will hear HB 12 from committee member Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage. Kopp’s bill seeks to assist victims seeking to extend protective orders.

Kopp, a former Kenai police chief and 23-year law enforcement veteran, said he got the idea after reading an Alaska Supreme Court ruling saying protective order laws need clarity.

“We thought it was unreasonable that if someone is still afraid that they should be able to get a protective order extended,” Kopp said. “The due process protection still exists. You have to make your case to the judge.”

HB 12 has already cleared the State Affairs Committee.

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