The small fishing community of Seward has seen a rise in burglaries: four in 2016, 13 in 2017, and 22 in 2018. This year, there have already been 11 cases.

Lt. Alan Nickell with the Seward Police Department began digging in to the numbers.

"What I wanted to know was, were the people that we either arrested or suspected in these cases, were they related to drug use," Nickell said. "And the answer was yes in almost every case."

Seeing the uptick in crime and drug use, Seward's mayor said a few organizations in town noticed the problems and felt something more should be done. 

"They wanted to get some answers. They said we need to do something," Mayor David Squires said. "But what is the something, what is the problem? So we have to identify that first."

The city held a public safety forum Thursday at the Seward Community Library and Museum. Over 60 people were in attendance to hear the impacts the recently passed House Bill 49 will have on crime.

The bill includes tougher penalties on crimes and has been signed in both the House and Senate. HB 49 is currently in the hands of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who has yet to sign it into law. 

In the meantime, Seward is looking at all of their options. 

Nickell says the police department needs the help from the community. The first plan of action is for residents to start locking up to protect their belongings.   

"Seward's a nice place to live. We have good people here and the people here have traditionally not had to lock their cars, lock their house, you know that kind of thing. They're used to 'it's our friendly little community,'" Nickell said. "Now that this is changing so dramatically, it's more important than ever to protect yourselves and lock your stuff."

Another thing members of the community can do is speak up if they see suspicious activity. 

"Calm down and take a real good look at what's going on," Nickell said. "The better information that you can give us, the better we can serve you."

The lieutenant said noticing descriptive things about people is helpful for investigators.

•     How tall were they?
•     What color was their hair?
•     Did they have any defining features?
•     Do they have a scar on their face or a birthmark that's visible?

Nickell advised people not to focus too much on clothing because criminals will usually change into something else. However, there is one item he said they usually forget.

"One thing that criminals don't change is their shoes," Nickell said. "I think that the reason for that is it's kind of a personal item." 

By working together, city officials said the community can help keep tabs on what is happening in Seward as well as surrounding vacation homes and cabins. 

"We want to make sure that our residents are taken care of OK and that they feel safe in their homes," Squires said. "It's also for our visitors, too, because crime doesn't dictate between either a resident or non-resident. So if our visitors have a problem, we want to be able to help them, too." 

Those in attendance at the forum were asked to write down questions and turn them in. The concerns will be compiled and answers will be provided and published by the city. 

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