Mat-Su Borough to consider new policing options to fight high crime

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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) The Matanuska-Susitna Borough covers an area of 25,258 square miles, making it slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. To police this area, in addition to the Palmer and Wasilla Police Departments, Alaska State Troopers have 58 commissioned troopers according to a 2017 study provided by the Department of Public Safety.

According to MSB Assembly Member Jim Sykes, this leaves much of the borough without immediate law enforcement.

“A lady who lived on Lazy Mountain sent me an email,” Sykes said. “She said ‘I moved from Lazy Mountain to Palmer because we were living next to a drug operation, and all kinds of nasty things that are too horrible to describe, and I wanted my family to live in some place that is safe, and when we call for police, we can get them.”

Sykes is part of a task force for the borough looking at different options to improve the policing situation.

“We have really now come down to three options that we’re sort of looking at,” he said. “One is a police-service area. Sort of like a fire service area or a road service area.”

Through the police-service area, the Wasilla and Palmer departments would be contracted out to patrol other areas of the borough. These contacts would be paid for through taxes of the new areas being patrolled.

The second option they’re considering is a task force comprised of State Troopers and the Wasilla and Palmer Police Departments.

“The borough would pay for it,” Sykes said. “And the are would either be a police-service area, or it could be borough-wide.”

The third option would be a borough-funded police department.

Sykes said the task force has looked to Girdwood as an example of an effective police-service area.

“The police that they have contracted in Whittier makes rounds in Girdwood,” he said. “And they are available for the little fender-bender, of the noisy neighbor or whatever it is.”

Currently, the task force is refining these three options, which they’ll compile into a report to be submitted to the borough in December. Sykes can’t say for sure what they’ll do from there, but he says one thing is certain:

“Almost no one wants to keep going where we are right now,” he said.

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the square mileage of the state of Arkansas.

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