ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Governor Bill Walker's Public Action Plan proposal for the upcoming budget could make a positive difference in the amount of crimes prosecuted, according to both the Department of Law's Criminal Division and the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office.
Following budget cuts to the Department of Law between 2014 and 2018, crime rates have gone up; however, the amount of prosecutors and funds available to help them has shrunk.
"When we have a budget reduction, we have to make decisions as to what cases we have the ability to prosecute. Because we have a finite amount of resources – a limited amount of resources – we cannot prosecute all the cases that come to the door, so we have to decline some of them," Deputy Attorney General Rob Henderson said.
But in December, Gov. Walker called for the addition of the following:
• Statewide drug prosecutor,
• Prosecutor in Bethel,
• Trooper investigator in Bethel,
• Prosecutor in Kotzebue,
• Statewide trooper investigator,
• Two prosecutors in Anchorage,
• And an expansion of substance abuse treatment programs.
Deputy Attorney General Henderson believes that the call for five additional prosecutors really responds to areas where his agency sees the most types of offences coming in the door. But as of right now, they have more questions than answers when it comes to what action would be the best for the department.
"How can we move away from a reactive mode to a proactive mode? How do we have the ability to engage our community, and potentially divert cases out of the criminal justice system that don't need to be in the criminal justice system? How do we work with our other criminal justice partners to find other solutions, than just traditional prosecution?" asked Deputy Attorney General Henderson. "Right now, we can't do that. We are a reactive agency."
The largest office in the state is based in Anchorage, where the city has seen a record number of crime spikes – including homicides and car thefts. District Attorney Richard Allen says he's eager to see more resources put into his office, in order to address not only the spike in violent crime, but all lawlessness happening in the region.
"If we're able to bring in a couple more younger prosecutors, and we're able to bring them those caseloads of criminal theft and mischief and those types of cases, that's going to lead to better results for victims," said District Attorney Allen. "That's going to lead to quicker resolutions of cases."
The state legislature begins its next session on Jan. 16, and lawmakers will address Alaska's budget. To view Gov. Walkers proposal, follow this link.