New beats for APD patrol officers align with community council districts
On a Thursday morning drive through Mountain View, Anchorage Police officer Brian Fuchs slows his patrol car, rolls down his passenger side window and cracks a smile.
"You goin' to school, buddy?" he asks a boy walking along the side of the road.
"Yeah," the boy answers, lifting his face from under a hoodie.
"Alright, buddy, have a good day," Fuchs responds. The student proudly tells him he's in the third grade.
Fuchs hopes the effect of a positive interaction with a police officer will far outlast their 30-second conversation.
"I get it, we may have a high crime rate in some of the areas that I patrol, Mountain View, Fairview, places like that," he said, "but I’ll tell you what, there are some great people in those communities as well, and I’ve met them."
He's spent years patrolling East Anchorage, and now, Mountain View will be his full-time focus.
APD recently announced changes to its community patrol beats. They've designated more, smaller areas for officers to focus on with boundaries that match Anchorage's existing community council districts.
"It’s a step in a process, right? That’s really what the realignment of beats does," Fuchs explained. "It starts us in this process of creating consistency in the community as far as police services."
The department is committing one officer per shift to each beat, and will be assigning officers to the same areas. The idea is that residents will come to know officers assigned to their neighborhoods as familiar faces, and officers assigned to the area will communicate with each other frequently to address neighborhood-specific concerns.
In Mountain View, a problem Fuchs keeps a close eye on is abandoned properties that have been deemed uninhabitable.
While checking on one Thursday, he noticed something was out of place. A vehicle that looked driveable, sitting among several junk cars.
It turned out to be a stolen vehicle. The thief or thieves had swapped its license plates and spray painted the once red jeep black.
Not long after the discovery, Fuchs got help processing the vehicle, freeing him up to continue patrolling.
He approached two men standing near piles of trash in another "problem area," and had conversations with both of them.
One said he was waiting for a ride.
The other said he had used meth two hours prior to the conversation. Fuchs attempted to connect him with addiction resources, but the man did not want to be seen talking to a police officer. Fuchs took down his information, and said he will try again on another day.
"This is my area," he told the man. "I work it Monday through Thursday."
An additional perk to the change in APD's beats is the ability to produce neighborhood specific data faster, according to Capt. Sean Case. He says while the Community Action Policing team typically tries to attend community council meetings, patrol officers will start going as often as their shift allows.
"You’ll see a different feel when patrol comes," he explained. "So they’ll be armed with some data that’s happening, they’ll also be armed with some information about what’s really happening in the area from boots on the ground, them going to calls and what they’re seeing."
While he's assigned to Mountain View, officer Fuchs didn't hesitate to respond to a possible armed robbery in progress in a different part of town Thursday.
The initial call was that a woman claiming to have a gun was demanding medication and money from the owner of The Hot Spot coffee shop on Tudor Road. Officers arrived and handcuffed the woman, who did not actually have a gun.
After interviewing the coffee shop owner, officers decided to take the woman to the hospital for an evaluation.
Fuchs headed back to Mountain View.
"We’re a family, we look out for one another, and it’s OK to cross those lines and do work, right?" he said. "The patch says 'Anchorage Police Department' it doesn’t say Mountain View police or East Anchorage police, so although the areas and the beats are real good for administrative purposes and to build relationships, we want to make sure that we’re available to cross those lines if we have to to support each other."
Capt. Case said APD is able to implement the beat changes, in part, because of the increased size of the department. He said there are an additional roughly 50 patrol officers on the streets now than there were five years ago.
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