PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Officials with the criminal justice system painted a bleak picture for public safety in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, during a town hall meeting Saturday afternoon.
Roman Kalytiak, the Palmer District Attorney, spoke about the importance of good policing to ensure public safety, saying that Wasilla and Palmer were well-served by their police departments but areas in the Valley served by troopers were a different story.
“On any given day, I’m lucky if I have five troopers working for this main hub,” said Lt. Tom Dunn, stationed at the Palmer officer for AST, adding that the impact of that shortfall meant that troopers needed to carefully prioritize calls.
Dunn argued a sudden influx of new troopers would not immediately solve all the region’s problems because it takes three to four years training and experience for a trooper to become effective.
Major Bryan Barlow with AST said that 26 troopers would head to the academy on Sunday to begin their training.
While better staffed, Palmer is not immune to crime. Chief Lance Ketterling with the Palmer Police Department said that property crime and certain violent crimes had been risen significantly in recent years across the city.
There were 266 property crimes in 2016, rising to 399 in 2017. Those numbers though are slightly lower than the early 2000’s and in 2008.
The event was hosted by Rep. DeLena Johnson, R – Palmer, who holds repealing Senate Bill 91 as one of her legislative priorities.
Also in attendance at the symposium was Mayor Edna DeVries, who is set to run against Johnson in August’s GOP primary for District 11.
DeVries also wants to repeal SB-91 and both candidates say they would keep the so-called "valuable parts" of the bill.