Drunk driving has taken five lives in Anchorage as of mid-August and police are stepping up efforts to curb the problem.
On Friday night, the Anchorage Police Department organized a rally at West High School and launched a new initiative, using 40 volunteers from the APD Citizens Academy Alumni. The extra man power will comb the streets of Anchorage between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. in search of drivers they suspect are intoxicated.
"Although we cannot go back in time and change what has happened to your loved ones, we can decide that as a community, we've had enough and that it is time to work together to create a change," said APD Chief Mark Mew at a Friday evening rally.
Hours after the new program launched, 34-year-old Stephen Christopher Kenny died in East Anchorage after crashing his pickup truck through a fence at Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. The passenger in the truck suffered non-life threatening injuries and told police that both of them were drinking at a party in South Anchorage.
“I can't believe that I'm here today talking to you about this just hours after we had a rally about reporting dangerous driving, just hours after we brought five additional officers on duty just to look for dangerous drivers,” said Anita Shell, APD Public Information Officer.
Prior to Saturday’s morning deadly crash, there had been three DUI crashes that have killed four people in the last eight weeks.
On Jun. 30, 20-year-old Citari Townes-Sweatt was killed after 22-year-old Lane Douglas Wyatt, a JBER airman, allegedly t-boned her near Boniface Parkway and Debarr Road, and told police on scene that he was drinking a midtown bar.
On Jul. 12, 32-year-old Marcia Mausali was a backseat passenger and died after being ejected from a Chevy Avalanche on Commercial Dr. near Mountain View. 29-year-old Andre Clinton was behind the wheel and suffered life-threatening injuries and police said “speed and alcohol” were factors in the crash.
On Aug. 9, two 15-year-old girls, Jordyn Durr and Brooke McPheters, were killed walking home on Abbott Road after 31-year-old Stacey Allen Graham allegedly drove his pickup truck when he was approximately three times the legal limit.
Currently, about 25 APD officers patrol the streets, but now a handful of them will be dedicated to finding and arresting suspected drunk drivers the volunteers locate.
"If the enthusiasm I'm seeing out of this crowd is much my guess is it's going to spread," said Mew. "It may encourage more people to join our academy just so they can do this kind of volunteer work."
The new initiative isn't limited to the volunteers, APD encourages all drivers to be REDDI- that acronym stands for Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately.
Police ask anyone to call 9-1-1 if they see dangerous driving, that can be speeding, texting while driving or possibly intoxicated.
"A citizen complaint of a drunk driver is going to get high priority," said Mew. "I mean we will put off going to cold calls and going to minor things. We'll treat this as what it is, a life threatening event, and we will get people there."
Contact Mallory Peebles