Shooting at Centennial Campground raises safety questions

Shooting at Centennial Campground raises safety questions
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 6:09 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The shooting at Centennial Campground has added fuel to the debate over whether the campground is a safe place to stay for the approximately 180 homeless people currently living there.

Mayor Dave Bronson released a statement Thursday regarding the shooting and police response:

“Safety and protection for everyone who lives in Anchorage is a priority no matter where they are, which includes safe sheltering for those who choose to camp outside.”

Acting Assembly member Christopher Constant said there’s nothing safe about the campground, blaming the mayor for closing the Sullivan Arena as a homeless shelter at the end of June and bussing some of the shelter residents to the campground.

“The mayor has adopted, as the municipality’s policy, a camp is the best place to put children and mothers with chronic mentally ill individuals, in the woods, where perpetrators are coming in and causing trouble, and our police are coming in and getting shot. That’s the reality of Mayor Bronson’s plan,” Constant said.

Constant is not alone. In a written statement Assembly Member Forrest Dunbar also put the blame squarely on the mayor’s shoulders.

Dunbar wrote, “The assembly and prior administration passed a plan in May of 2021 that would have avoided this disaster. Dave Bronson threw it in the trash. Ever since we’ve seen chaos, incompetence, lies and crisis.”

Whether the camp is in crisis depends on who you ask. Assembly Member Randy Sulte, who said he has visited the campground recently, said he thinks things are running relatively smoothly and added he thought the mayor was being unfairly criticized.

“I think people are all too willing to throw the mayor an anchor, verses a life raft,” he said.

Bronson’s spokesperson Corey Allen Young said security has been increased since the campground was repurposed, including APD check-ins, and additional private security working with Parks and Rec employees at the campground. He said municipal employees are working at the campground to try and help people into a shelter or permanent housing.

“This is not just us talking about it, this is actively case managers in the Anchorage health department, as well as those community partners, are working together to get people placed,” he said.

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