Crime awareness continues to dominate the area’s conversation as local government officials held yet another crime town hall on Nov. 20 at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center.
“There is no question we are seeing an escalation in crime,” Amy Demboski, District 2 Assembly Member representing the Chugiak area, said at the community meeting she sponsored.
Demboski, a graduate of Chugiak High School and long-time resident, says she has seen an increase in property crimes and cites a recent armed robbery in Eagle River where a resident was followed home after making a withdrawal from an ATM.
Demboski has hosted several community meetings addressing crime in Chugiak and Eagle River. She’s hoping her constituents will start neighborhood watch groups, utilizing the app Nextdoor.
Demboski likes this particular app because it connects small areas of neighbors and verifies that the users actually live in those neighborhoods.
“We can communicate rapidly, and with everyone,” Dembroski said. She would like to have a high number of Nextdoor users, with volunteer street captains who can facilitate communication between neighbors, the Anchorage Police Department, and the Birchwood Community Patrol.
“We’re not asking you to be vigilantes. We’re asking you to increase awareness,” Demboski said.
Lt. Jack Carson of the Anchorage Police Department agrees that residents should be aware and proactive. “Overall, in the Municipality of Anchorage, crime is going up,” Carson said.
He pointed out that many crimes are crimes of opportunity and gave the following advice.
-Be suspicious of box tucks without professional logos and vehicles whose paint looks flat, like it’s been spray painted.
– Dark buildings are easy targets. “Light it up,” Carson said.
-Keep driveways and paths shoveled.
-Don’t keep vehicles running unattended. According to Carson, more than 50% of the vehicles stolen in the municipality had the keys inside.
-Install good outdoor lighting. Skip the motion sensor lights in favor of constant illumination.
-Secure what can be secured. Don’t leave expensive equipment in the yard. “Lock your sheds, lock your houses,” Carson said.
-Have safes. Lock up guns and keep track of serial numbers.
-Consider installing a high quality camera. They can help identify known criminals and be used in prosecution. “There are a lot of good cameras. You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg,” said Demboski, who recently researched a security system for her home. If your cameras do not record to the cloud, keep them hidden so intruders can’t destroy evidence.
-Get to know your neighbors and keep track of their phone numbers. Inform a trusted neighbor if you’re going away.
-Report reckless drivers to 911. They endanger the community and might be involved in other illegal behavior.
-Call the APD at 907-786-8900 to report suspicious behavior. Criminals usually do their homework. “They scout their targets. It’s not the first time they’ve been in the neighborhood,” Carson said.
-Report any crimes, even small ones. The police department uses crime statistics to decide distribution of personnel and funding.
“Having that data is crucial,” said Nora Morse, public safety representative from Anchorage Police Department. “If they don’t know these things are happening, they can’t do anything about it.”
Another important resource for Chugiak/Eagle River residents is the Birchwood Community Patrol. The BCP is a five-man, volunteer team that travels in marked vehicles, scouting local neighborhoods for suspicious activity. They immediately call the police if a situation arises.
“We stay back, call APD, and get them out there,” said Jeff Hartley of Birchwood Community Control. BCP members follow very specific protocol. They must remain in their vehicles. They don’t engage suspects or ask questions.
Hartley and his team each volunteer a minimum of 4-6 hours per week, depending on what’s happening in the community. They can be reached by email at: BirchwoodPatrol@gmail.com. Hartley recommends contacting them after APD has been informed of any suspicious activity. The BCP can track complaints and concentrate on affected areas. They are currently looking for more volunteers.
While crime is rising, Carson feels comfortable living here.
“I feel like we live in a safe area. No matter what neighborhood, there is always crime,” Carson said.
He recommends “having strength and courage to do something about it. Next time, it will be your house…they (criminals) remember which neighborhoods are good and which are bad.”
The APD will hold a meeting Dec. 10th from 12-2 p.m. at Eagle River High School to introduce additional crime fighting apps.
Editor’s Note: Melinda Munson is a Chugiak resident and a journalism graduate from the University of Washington. She is an editorial intern with The ECHO News and the mother of six children.