'Strangulation cases are going to be a priority of mine' — the new district attorney for Anchorage talks about his priorities
John Novak, a prosecutor with more than 30 years experience, has been tapped to be the new district attorney for Anchorage. Channel 2 spoke with Novak on Tuesday to discuss a broad range of subjects, including Novak's goals for his office. Here is an edited transcript of our conversation with Novak.
What are your priorities for this office?
To develop, mentor and train young prosecutors, paralegals, staff that we have at this office to be the next generation. The second real goal is to do my best to establish this office to be a vital part of the solution to Alaska's now years and years long distinction, or dishonor, of being number one in the nation domestic violence, homicide; number one in the nation in sexual assault, number one in the nation — or among the top — in child abuse and neglect.
There has been growing frustration by the public that people feel like not enough crimes have been prosecuted, especially lower level crimes. Is that an accurate perception?
Once again, my priorities are domestic violence, homicide, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect. So, you know, if I had one prosecutor, what would I have them doing? I'd have them doing the murder case, the strangulation cases, the sexual assault cases, and know that is the core function of this office: to protect those people who can't protect themselves.
Strangulation cases are gong to be a priority of mine, they are very significant cases very important cases.
Most of the general public deals with things like theft, and kind of petty crimes. How do you deal with their frustrations that those crimes don't seem prosecuted? And I know when you look at strangulation and homicides and stuff like that, that's the higher level of crime, but for the general public, they're still annoyed that their crimes aren't being prosecuted.
I've got at least a half a dozen of my personal friends who have had their cars stolen...That having been said, if I talk to any of my friends or any of my neighbors or community members and said 'Okay, what's more important: the domestic violence homicide that happened in our neighborhood, or the theft of your car?' I think everybody's going to say 'Yep, you need to focus your attention.'
All I can do is promise to do my best, and honorably serve in that position. But this is not about me, this is about this office, and how we can accomplish our mission. Like I said, we have smart, talented, hard working people here. Prosecutors, paralegals, law office assistants, they work hard. They work holidays, they work days, nights, evenings, and I think it's — and maybe I didn't mention this, you know, when the earthquake happened, we never stopped working. We got our job done.
To illustrate the type of people we have here, one of our prosecutors was here, and rather than go outside and evacuate the building he started going office to office, room to room, and looking if he could help. And found her (a co-worker) and rescued her, and you know, that's the type of person that I've been entrusted to lead. So I'm proud to do this job. I'll do my best.
Pretty exciting work head of you.
It's a big job, big job.