As property and violent crime continue to increase in Anchorage, the city’s police department is internally reorganizing to better respond.
Speaking at a press conference inside Anchorage Police Department headquarters Tuesday, Police Chief Justin Doll announced that the department’s expansion in recent years is allowing it to increase its focus on property, drug, and violent crime. APD’s new initiative has three main elements, all of which, should be fully in place later this October.
“Overall, our goal here is to more effectively deal with violent offenders, and run more efficient drug investigations, and gather and utilize relevant intelligence,” Doll told a handful of reporters.
Doll said that the internal rearrangement is meant to “streamline that chain of command, make us more efficient, and make sure that we don’t have bureaucracy getting in the way of active investigations and operations.”
The changes include bringing officers and detectives focused on drug crime in the Community Action Policing Team and Vice unit under the same command, as well as expanding intelligence sharing with other law enforcement agencies, and adding one detective a piece to the homicide and robbery/assault units. Finally, the department is creating an entirely new unit designed to support larger investigations.
“That’ll be things like helping serve search warrants, run surveillance, find witnesses, assist detectives with long-term investigations,” Doll said.
“When they’re not doing those things, they’ll provide high-intensity patrol operations in parts of town as we identify hot spots and crime trends,” Doll added of the new Investigative Support Unit, set to be comprised of eight patrol officers under the supervision of a sergeant.
Across Anchorage, residents, business owners and elected officials say crime is on the rise, though the causes and degree of increase are hotly contested. Doll agrees there is more serious crime taking place compared to recent years, and sees this new strategy as aiming to make the police department less reactive and more proactive responding to the trend.
But the chief stopped short of identifying the rise in crime, either locally or nationally, as attributable to any single cause or explanation.
“I think in Anchorage we have a combination of things,” Doll said. “The department suffered from low staffing for a while, and I think whenever you don’t have law enforcement pressure on criminal activity it tends to increase. I think that we’re seeing a rise in the use of opioids, and that tends to affect property crimes because those people need to have sort of income or something they can trade for the drugs that they need to stay not sick. So I think it’s a whole host of things.”
Doll says of the 409 officers at APD today there are still dozens in training, with another academy in December expected to further grow the force.