City leaders talk homelessness & prosecutor case loads

Published: Sep. 20, 2017 at 6:19 PM AKDT
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At the Anchorage Assembly's committee meeting on homelessness, a surprising number revealed by the Anchorage Police Department's CAP team, or Community Action Policing states the group has been making contact with all of the reported homeless camps in the municipality.

"As of about three weeks ago, we had posted 100 percent of the camps that were reported for the municipality," Lieutenant Jack Carson with the CAP team said.

Lt. Carson acknowledged the frustrations some community council members expressed during the public comment period.

"They do have that two week period they can move the camps before we remove them. That can be frustrating," he said, "when the camps are near your home and along trail systems, but that is set out by the court. We don't have a lot of choice on that."

Discussion revolved around whether the two-week grace period is too long for illegal campers to simply relocate to another area in the city.

Assembly member Eric Croft says he has drafted a proposal that would cut the notification period from 15 days to seven days to present sometime in the future.

APD said the city has taken an initiative to come up with more long-term solutions to ending homelessness, which is why the CAP team also goes to the campsites with a social worker, "so that we can try and get these people connected and not just push them from camp to camp to camp because by law all they have to do is move to a different area and then now we have to re-post for another 14 days," Lt. Carson said.

Following the meeting on homelessness, the Anchorage Assembly's committee on public safety met to discuss SB 91 and municipal case loads with prosecutor, Seneca Theno.

It's pretty clear Anchorage has seen an increase in property crime, while many might be quick to blame SB 91 — some of the city's top leaders say the connection isn't so clear.

Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll pointed out it's hard to say if SB 91 has had an impact on the crime rate because the law has only been effect since the middle of last year and quite frankly, it's difficult to pinpoint why a specific crime is happening.

Theno presented data showing DWI along with domestic violence and assault cases are being prosecuted at about the same rate, but case loads are shrinking as a result of the legislation.

"I can speak to our arrest intake and say it's consistent I can speak to our prosecution rates and say it's consistent part of the differences are the sentences are drastically changed and so folks are out of jail sooner or never in jail so there's this perception of a revolving door," she said.

Theno says one contributing factor in how many cases the office will prosecute in a year is also connected to how many officers are on patrol, a number city leaders expect to see on the rise soon.