POLICE WARN PEOPLE TO BE WARY
The dead number 26,* depending on how you count them. However they started their journeys in life and whatever their dreams, stone cold on an Anchorage street is how they ended their days in 2016.
Four of the 26 were found on urban trails, and another was found on a deadend road close to trailheads to Far North Bicentennial Park.
The latest two bodies were found in the darkest hours of the morning in Valley of the Moon Park, between the Spenard neighborhood and Downtown, on a popular bike trail. Like two others found dead on another urban trail in July, who killed them is unknown. The method of the murders has also not been released by police, as the investigation is active and releasing information too early can hurt a case they are trying to solve.
Most of the homicides are men, most are young, and most killings seem to be late at night. Many seem to be drug-related or people settling scores with each other.
But the trail killings — 19 percent of the violent deaths this year — send up a warning flare to citizens, especially when the police issue an alert to citizens to stay off the trails at night when there’s no one around. The statement from Anchorage Police Department in full:
The Anchorage Police Department is alerting citizens to be extra aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious person(s) or activity immediately to police.
Since June 27, 2016 there have been 15 homicide victims. Of those victims, six were engaged in high risk behaviors and/or lifestyles such as drugs, guns and criminal activity. Several of the homicides have involved individuals under the age of 21. There have been four deaths associated with domestic violence and five deaths of individuals that have been outside in the late night/early morning hours; most of which were in isolated areas such as a bike trails, parks and unoccupied streets.
APD wishes to remind our citizens that if you are experiencing domestic violence or are aware of someone that is, please contact police so we can intervene; there are resources available to help victims of DV.
Also, criminal activity often increases late at night and during early morning hours. APD wants to remind our citizens to be cautious when they are out during these hours, especially if they are in isolated areas like our parks, bike trails or unoccupied streets. If you plan to be out late at night, make sure you travel with several friends and not alone.
APD asks citizens to report suspicious or dangerous activity by calling APD Dispatch at 786-8900 or 911 in the case of an emergency. To provide an anonymous crime tip, please contact Anchorage Crimestoppers online at www.anchoragecrimestoppers.com or call 561-STOP.
STAY OUT OF ISOLATED AREAS SUCH AS BIKE TRAILS, PARKS, UNOCCUPIED STREETS
It’s a tall order to ask Alaskans to stay out of isolated areas, since that’s what makes Alaska different from, say, Chicago.
But it’s also unusual for Alaska police to issue a warning to not travel alone late at night, when so many people must do so for work, and since Anchorage is going to great lengths to become a bike-friendly, ski-trail-friendly city. In most urban areas of the country, people take these kinds of precautions as a part of urban life in 2016, but it’s unsettling for Alaskans who want more than Chicago offers.
So far, there has been no comment from the Mayor’s Office on the murderous trend. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who ran for office on the platform of “Safe and Secure,” now has the ignominious record of governing during a record-breaking year for violent crimes in Anchorage.
Berkowitz, who has been an Anchorage resident since moving here from San Francisco in 1990, promised during his campaign for mayor in 2015: “Together, we can make Anchorage a safe place to do business and raise a family. When I came to Alaska 25 years ago and served as a young prosecutor, I learned that a successful strategy to reduce crime and recidivism links prevention, policing and prosecution,” he wrote in 2015 as he made his case for running Alaska’s largest city.
San Francisco has had 32 homicides so far this year among its 837,000 residents. Anchorage, with 26 homicides among its 301,000 residents is experiencing close to two and a half times the rate of murders as San Francisco.
More police and prosecution is Mayor Berkowitz’ answer for the violent crime problem in Anchorage, but he’s been silent on the issue since taking office. Leadership also means talking to the people and being proactive.
Berkowitz has his work cut out for him to reassure the public of his progress on this front, as police tell people to be aware of their surroundings, stay out of isolated areas, and to not travel alone at night.
It’s time for Berkowitz to give the public an update on his progress for making Anchorage safe and secure.
*Must Read Alaska counts the homicides as 26, because we count the Glenn Highway hit-and-run death of 22-year-old Joshua Goodlataw on Aug. 6 as a homicide.