Alaska State Troopers are forming a new unit next month in response to an increase in Mat-Su Valley property crimes reported by residents to law enforcement.

According to a Wednesday statement from AST, several troopers are being detailed to the Criminal Suppression Unit, which will begin operations Jan. 1. It was first announced during a Friday public meeting on Valley property crimes at the Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla.

“While troopers began discussions to create the CSU after handling what seemed like a large amount of property crimes, it became even clearer the unit was needed after the community noticed and voiced the same concerns,” troopers wrote.

The unit uses funds from Gov. Sean Parnell’s 2014 budget as approved by the state Legislature, which adds 17 AST positions statewide including five in the Mat-Su.

“One sergeant and three troopers have already been assembled and are diligently collecting information and will be ready for the official start date,” troopers wrote. “The troopers in the CSU will be uniformed and using marked patrol vehicles to enhance visibility during directed patrols in areas of known criminal activity.”

AST spokesperson Beth Ipsen says that while the funds for the unit are new, the troopers assigned to the added posts are Valley veterans.

“These are troopers that have already been working in the Valley,” Ipsen said. “They’ll be able to focus on gathering the intel and tracking down thefts.”

Although parts of the unit’s work may overlap with areas covered by the Wasilla and Palmer police departments, Ipsen emphasizes that it will work with existing law enforcement agencies, much like AST's Bureau of Highway Patrol. Troopers will offer officers jurisdiction over crimes committed in their areas, rather than “stepping on toes” in countering the property crimes increase.

“This is going to give us a new tool to tackle it, because many times police and troopers are juggling many things,” Ipsen said.

As an example, Ipsen mentions a previous unit formed several years ago to deter Valley burglaries and thefts, in which troopers were frequently retasked for other duties. While the troopers in the new unit will still be available for urgent cases, Ipsen says they are focused on the issue at hand.

“Hopefully they will be proactive and have time to get out in front of some of these problems,” Ipsen said.