APD concerned with rising crime in Chugiak-Eagle River

Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 08:01
  • Anchorage Police Department Capt. Sean Case speaks to the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at the Eagle River Ale House. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Crime in Chugiak-Eagle River rose in the first four months of 2017, according to figures shared by Anchorage Police Department Capt. Sean Case at a May 17 meeting of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce.

“The numbers are starting to go up a little bit in this area,” said Capt. Case, pointing to a graph showing an increase in serious “Part 1” crimes during each of the first four months of the year.

According to the FBI, Part 1 crimes include homicides, assaults, rapes, robberies, burglaries, theft, vehicle theft and arson.

During his presentation, Case showed a graph with numbers indicating that for January of 2017, Part 1 crimes were up about 70 percent over January of 2016 (from about 50 such crimes to roughly 85 reports), with February, March and April showing jumps of about 10 percent each over the previous year.

Case said the uptick in numbers is something the department is keeping a close eye on.

“That’s concerning to us and it’s something I’m sure is concerning to each and every one of you,” Case told chamber members gathered for lunch inside the Eagle River Ale House in downtown Eagle River.

Although the numbers aren’t good, Case said the vast majority of calls are for property crimes, with only 7 percent of all APD calls for violent offenses.

“It’s really property crimes that are hitting us, and hitting us heavily,” he said.

Case’s statistics showed January saw a spike in property crimes to more than twice the area’s five-year average. Property crime also increased in February, March and April, but by a much smaller amount than in the first month of the year.

Case said the increase is something that’s gotten the department’s attention, although he did note crime rates in Chugiak-Eagle River remain low compared to the rest of the municipality.

“It’s not alarming, but it’s enough to go, ‘We need to note that,’” he said.

Case said the department is currently making a renewed effort to use statistics and more data-driven policing to get a handle on crime trends. A former Chugiak High school resource officer and football coach, Case said APD understands folks in Chugiak-Eagle River want to see a more visible police presence, and the department is doing everything it can to make that happen. To make his point, Case pointed to a slide showing the names of all 12 officers who work the Chugiak-Eagle River beat, and said officers are doing their best to be engaged with the community.

“We try to get out here as much as we can,” he said.

Case said three officers are on duty in Chugiak-Eagle River at all times, except when called into Anchorage for high-priority calls or to take suspects to jail. One of the challenges of policing the expansive, semi-rural area is its vast size.

“We do come out here, we’re involved, but it is a very spread out area,” he said.

Capt. Case said that’s why it’s important for the department to have a good relationship with the community. He said APD encourages citizens to always report suspicious activity, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

“A lot of people in the Anchroage community do not reprot problems in their neighborhood,” he said.

Case said the department appreciates any help it can get, and praised the work of the Birchwood Communtiy Patrol in keeping an extra set of eyes on the community.

“The police department loves the community patrol,” he said.

Like much of the nation, Alaska is currently in the midst of a surge in the use of opiates, which Case said is likely fueling the rise in crime. There’s a direct correlation, he said, between drug addiction an a rise in thing like thefts and buglaries.

“There is a nexus between drugs and property crimes,” he said.

He said the department has placed more emphasis on getting patrol officers on the streets, and noted that staffing numbers are on the rise.

“We’ve been aggressively hiring and putting officers on the street,” he said.

That emphais, he said, is a direct response to requests from the community to be more engaged. He said as officer numbers go up, it should be easier for police officers to have more day-to-day interaction and converstations with people at the neighborhood level.

“The vision of the Anchorage Police Department right now is to be more personally engaged,” he said.

APD has participated in a number of crime forums in recent months, and Case said the department plans to continue asking for feedback from the community. The bottom line, he said, is the public and police need to work cooperatively to get a handle on increasing crime — and he’s encouraged by the level of support APD gets from Chugiak-Eagle River.

“There’s a lot of involvement out here,” he said.

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