ANCHORAGE (KTUU) With the city on pace to break a record for homicides this year, concern about crime was clear as dozens of people met with Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and APD Chief Chris Tolley Thursday evening.
The community gathering and question-and-answer session took place in Valley of the Moon park, where two young men were killed recently.
Mayor Ethan Berkowitz began the meeting, saying there are complex issues in the city with no simple answers. The mayor told the crowd, "We're going to make sure this entire town is clean because everyone in Anchorage deserves to feel safe where they live."
Berkowitz said police department staffing is being rebuilt but it isn't even close to full.
There were more than 100 people gathered around the park pavilion, many of them visibly upset over the violence that has been seen in this neighborhood and others in Anchorage.
"Are we actually safe?" one attendee asked. "It doesn't feel safe."
Another resident told the mayor and police chief, "Don't permit the drug dealers and the pimps and the predators and the thugs to take over blocks and parks. "
On the heels of two homicides on the same night in the park, one man said people in this neighborhood are afraid. Another suggested people arm themselves when walking city trails.
The police chief was pressed about who might have committed recent murders. A person in the crowd said, "I heard there might be a serial killer."
Chief Tolley responded, "The worst thing we can do is speculate and cause rumors to go about and so on."
The mayor said more police on the streets can be a deterrent. the chief of police said the first thing people can do is work with police and not hesitate to report issues of concern. But one person in the crowd expressed frustration, claiming he called APD repeatedly in the past.
"I bet you I've called 60 or 70 times about crime... and I just call.... they log it and say, 'thank you very much.' So this has been going on for generations," the man told Chief Tolley.
Another person at the meeting questioned the recent public safety alert issued by APD, advising people to be cautious in isolated areas late at night, like parks and trails. The alert also advised people that if they plan to be out late at night, to make sure they travel with several friends and not alone.
"If you say don't go out then then we failed as society we've given up our public space," the man said. "We can't do that."
There was a lot of support for bringing back the city's trail watch program. One woman said this neighborhood is willing to step up but it wants the city to take the lead