Governor and Attorney General comment on public safety progress since 2017
August 15, 2018
(Anchorage, AK) – The 2017 Uniform Crime Report (UCR) confirms what the internal data at Department of Law had already shown—crime went up last year.
“The 2017 UCR looks back at information a year ago or more and doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know,” said Attorney General Lindemuth. “But it does confirm the concerns we voiced last year. The trends we were seeing last year is why we have the Public Safety Action Plan and why we have already taken many concrete steps to implement that plan. Our crime problem will not be solved overnight but we are making progress.”
In August of 2017, Governor Walker tasked Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth to work across state agencies to identify concrete action items that the State can take to help reverse the rising crime trend that began in 2013. The resulting Public Safety Action Plan lays out a comprehensive crime-fighting strategy that drove the administration’s budget and legislative priorities. Governor Walker introduced a budget that prioritized public safety which resulted in a $30 million increase in public safety funding, including money for more prosecutors, criminal investigators, and substance abuse treatment.
“After years of cuts to public safety agencies, we said ‘no more.’ We prioritized funding for public safety in this year’s budget– and that will remain our focus,” said Governor Walker. “We will continue to champion public safety for a safer Alaska.”
Deputy Attorney General Rob Henderson testified during the legislative session that the department had seen a spike in felony prosecutions in 2017. Unlike the statewide UCR, the Department of Law broke down prosecutions by region and was able to determine that the largest uptick in serious felony offenses occurred in Anchorage, Fairbanks and western Alaska. The remainder of the State remained relatively flat. Attorney General Lindemuth says this type of breakdown helps the department know where it needs resources.
“We were very intentional in where we asked for additional resources last session,” said Attorney General Lindemuth. “More prosecutors in Anchorage, Bethel and Kotzebue commensurate with where the spikes in prosecutions were happening.”
The request for additional prosecutors was part of the Public Safety Action Plan. In addition to more resources for criminal justice agencies, the State has been actively implementing other measures to help address public safety. These measures include:
- Removing the criminal law provisions that some have referred to as “catch-and-release” by giving discretion back to judges to determine bail and provide jail time for first-time Class C felonies;
- Introduced legislation to increase criminal penalties on drug traffickers, which the legislature failed to pass;
- Hiring a statewide drug prosecutor position within the Office of Special Prosecutions to focus on high-level drug traffickers in the state;
- Requesting and being granted the high intensity drug trafficking area designation, which will bring federal money into the State to help combat illegal drug importation;
- Increased number of drug dogs in key areas around the State;
- Reinvesting money into substance abuse and mental health treatment;
- Holding the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, accountable for its role in the opioid crisis by filing a lawsuit based on Purdue’s deceptive practices;
- Partnering with the municipality of Anchorage to add law enforcement and prosecution resources to address vehicle thefts; and
- Continuing to seek federal grants, such as the Department of Law and Department of Health and Social Services’ recent application for money to help implement the Civil Diversion Agreement in more rural communities.
These are just a few examples of the actions being taken. The Public Safety Action Plan Update has a detailed list of all the State’s public safety efforts. There are 67 public safety initiatives currently completed or in progress.
“There is no silver bullet,” said Governor Walker. “Our fiscal outlook has improved, the economy is picking up steam, and we’re making headway on the opioid epidemic. This takes time, but Alaskans will be safer in the long run because of it. We are turning the corner.”
# # #