New sheriff in town? Mat-Su policing discussion includes asking voters

Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials are considering whether to provide police services to residents who live outside city police departments’ jurisdiction. Part of the ongoing discussion is whether the borough should ask Mat-Su voters this fall if that’s something they even want from the borough.

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The borough cites as its impetus rising crime in the region and a decline in services from the Alaska State Troopers.

Several options have come up, including what would likely be an expensive expansion of the city police departments’ service areas. Another idea would be to give the borough policing responsibilities — possibly similar to a sheriff’s department.

Any option would require raising taxes.

Mat-Su Borough Assembly member Jim Sykes said at Tuesday’s Assembly meeting that he wants to ask residents what they think in an advisory vote this October.

“I think we just need to ask the question. ‘Are you satisfied, really, with the way things are? Or do you believe that the borough should be involved in police powers?'” Sykes told the other Assembly members. “It recognizes that we do have a problem. I think it’s our responsibility to at least ask the public if we should take a first step, and that’s all this is.”

If the voters support the idea of some kind of borough police powers, it would then be up to the borough to look more closely at the different possibilities and levels of service, Sykes said, adding that any specific plan would be put to another vote.

The Assembly members’ comments were mixed on the idea of an advisory vote.

Assembly member George McKee said he does not support the idea, because the borough has not given voters enough detail to make an informed decision.

“This is one of those things that, that when you go out, and you’re going to tell people, ‘We can provide you with a service, and it’s going to cost you some money, but we really don’t know how much,’ that’s not really good enough for me,” McKee said.

McKee also said almost none of his constituents have told him they are willing to pay more in taxes for borough police service.

The Assembly voted to postpone any further action on the proposal until July 31.

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Casey here

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