Concerns in Big Lake about "vigilante justice"

Published: Feb. 9, 2018 at 7:24 PM AKST
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A Mat-Su borough assemblyman says he's worried about vigilante justice in Big Lake as petty crime has increased.

"Thankfully there haven't been any instances where the public has been harmed at this point," assemblyman Dan Mayfield said. "Vigilante justice is not the answer, neither is the state sticking their heads in the ground. The state needs to step up and protect its citizens."

Mayfield says armed patrols, six to eight people at a time, drive around in the area almost nightly.

Mayfield says when he was running for re-election this past fall he knocked on more than 450 doors. Out of that group, he says, 400 households reported that crime was a big problem in the area.

"Mostly petty crimes, breaking and entering, theft," Mayfield said, "you now there's probably not a person in my district who hasn't had some experience with crime."

There isn't a police force in Big Lake, instead the community has relied on Alaska State troopers.

There's enough money in the state budget to pay for 382 positions, but 45 are vacant, according to troopers, and because of smaller budgets over the past few years eight trooper posts have closed.

"We're about 45 percent understaffed already in the Mat-Su Valley," AST recruitment supervisor Lt. Derek DeGraff said.

DeGraff says the staffing levels at AST is the lowest it's been in 10 years. He says attracting new recruits is also a big problem.

Mayfield says he'd like to see a partnership between the Neighborhood Watch programs and troopers as well as the substation in the Knik Goose Bay area, Talkeetna and Pitman reopened.

"The good citizen that's out there trying to protect his neighborhood, even though he's armed he may end up getting hurt," Mayfield said. "An innocent party may end up getting hurt."