ANCHORAGE -

Just how safe is your neighborhood park? Anchorage police have been keeping track of how often they're called to certain parks -- and what the calls are about.

With its wide open fields. newly installed playground and paved walkways, Cuddy Family Midtown Park is one of the most popular among Anchorage families.

“I think we have a really good park system,” said park visitor Even Evanson. “We feel safe here.”

But according to data from APD, some of the city's most family-friendly parks are also the ones they respond to most.

APD analyzed the number of calls it received over the one-year period that ended June 30. The data shows police were sent to Cuddy Park 152 times. A third of those calls were about suspicious or drunk people, and in the same year police also got four calls about indecent exposure and one report of a rape.

Police received even more calls to Kincaid Park. Data shows that between last June and this June, officers were dispatched to the South Anchorage park 165 times. Nearly half of the calls were from people who needed help getting out of the park, or wanted to report open doors and windows on buildings -- but there were also 26 reports of theft, which APD Lt. Garry Gilliam says may be a product of the park’s seclusion.

“People that are going to commit crimes look for targets of opportunity,” Gilliam said. “They're driving through and don't see anybody that may report them.”

The No. 1 problem park for Anchorage police, however, has been Town Square Park, which saw six reports of assaults and 42 calls related to drugs or alcohol. Most of the 355 calls to APD from the park were welfare checks, requests to make sure someone was OK.

“We can't really address issues if we don't know about them,” Gilliam said. “Probably what you're seeing is this is the result of the (Community Action Policing) team's effort in dealing with either illegal campers in the parks or people that are committing crimes in the parks, such as drinking alcohol, fighting and some other obscene behavior in some of the parks.”

Police and park advocates say the data shouldn’t drive you away from parks -- in fact, they say more families could mean less crime.

“Parks that are being used for fun and happy, healthy, attractive recreation activities tend to deter illegal or negative uses,” said the Anchorage Park Foundation’s executive director, Beth Nordlund.
     
Channel 2 called Anchorage Parks and Recreation several times for its view on crimes in local parks, but the calls were not returned.