TIME WAS 1971: Community grapples with drugs, violent crime

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 12:28

Drugs, murder, thievery and kidnapping were among the issues facing the people of Chugiak-Eagle River in 1971, as the growing area grappled with crime in the rapidly growing community.

“There is a drug problem in Chugiak-Eagle River,” Alaska State Trooper Loren Thomas told attendees at a meeting of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce in June.

Thomas said local dealers were mainly users who buy extra supplies to help support their habits, according to a front-page story in the June 17, 1971 edition of the Chugiak-Eagle River Star.

“Everyone must become involved,” Thomas said, urging parents to learn more about drugs. “Kids know more about drugs than their teachers. When a wrong statement is used, they discount the entire message.”

Thomas also cited a need for some rehabilitation facility for users, the story said, noting there were no in-state treatment programs available except Outside facilities for heroin addicts.

A month later, Birchwood was the scene of a grisly discovery as the body of Anchorage cab driver Harry Hibbs was found by “two youngsters” about 25 feet off a side road leading to Birchwood Loop, according to a story in the July 15 edition. A 27-year-old Anchorage man was later arrested in Palmer for the killing.

In August, local 11-year-old Paul Hair disappeared with family friend Lorance Zimmerman on a trip to Eureka to pick up a trailer. About three weeks later, the bodies of Hair and Zimmerman were found near Sheep Mountain; a 21-year-old escapee from the Palmer Adult Farm was later arrested in Washington for their murders.

The drug issue was addressed by the paper in November, when the Star ran a series of stories featuring basic information about recreational drugs, including stories such as “Drug path has few places to turn around,” which talked about the dangers of marijuana; “Impossible to predict route ‘trip’ will take,” which discussed hallucinogens; “‘Uppers’ and ‘downers’ can be dangerous,” which talked about amphetamines and barbituates; and “Everyone but suppliers is a loser in hard drug scene,” which talked about opiates — described as “heavy” drugs in the article.

A Nov. 4 editorial discussed the reason for the paper’s education efforts:

“Perhaps through education can come eventual eradication of this menacing disease,” wrote editor and publisher Lee Jordan. “Treatment for those who are afflicted is necessary, but prevention is imperative. Polio has been removed as a threat, not by finding a cure, but by vaccination — by prevention.”

“We hope the narcotics problem can be remedied before another drug-addled mind needing a few dollars for another high and a ride up the highway comes along to take innocent lives.”

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