Dunleavy announces wide-ranging ‘People First’ initiative to address public safety in Alaska

Man at podium between two flags
Gov. Mike Dunleavy (left) and Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor (right) at a press briefing on Dec. 14, 2021. (Screenshot)

On Tuesday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced a series of steps intended to reduce Alaska’s rates of domestic violence and sexual assault.

During a press briefing announcing his “People First” initiative, Dunleavy said the rates of these crimes remain high despite previous efforts to reduce them. He said he’s hopeful that this time will be different and that his administration should be judged on the outcomes.

“I think we’ve run out of reasons or excuses, to be honest with you,” he said. “And I’m not diminishing initiatives done in the past. I think there were some real attempts and genuine attempts to work on this.”

Dunleavy plans to introduce a bill that would increase criminal penalties related to domestic violence and sexual assaults, and to expand the range of offenses defined as domestic violence. He plans to launch new programs to assist victims of these crimes.

“The bill equips the Department of Law with additional resources and support needed to better protect victims and to bring perpetrators to justice,” said Attorney General Treg Taylor.

Dunleavy also plans to launch a new Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Council. And he’s asked for legislation to better define sex trafficking and to allow sex trafficking victims to expunge their records.

The administration will focus more state efforts on reducing the number of children receiving foster care and on aiding the transition of foster children to getting jobs.

The initiative also includes the creation of a statewide homelessness coordinator and a new database that would track homelessness and draw from different sources to better coordinate the state response.

On Wednesday, Dunleavy will announce his state budget proposal for next year. He said the initiatives he announced on Tuesday will cost “millions” of dollars, but that the overall budget would keep state spending below the level it was at when he took office.

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.