Victim of burglary says SB91 is the problem; Anchorage District Attorney says it's more complicated

Image courtesy of Derrick Dell.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — A residential burglary on Rabbit Creek Road in late August that resulted in the theft of nearly $40,000 worth of items, and the owner of the burglarized home is calling on Anchorage citizens to stand up together against property crimes.

Derrick Dell of Anchorage was on a trip out of state to see his ailing mother, when his phone notified him of a burglary happening live at his home.

“I just feel violated,” said Dell. “You've got an individual going through your items, just scrounging through your stuff. Doesn't care what it is just looking for something to steal.”

Dell is a member of an online community resource called Nextdoor, connecting neighbors to inform each other of crime happening in their area. He says he sees new posts almost daily. And he thinks he knows why.

“Why do I think it's happening?” he asked. “It’s because of SB91. It's people, there's no consequences for the crimes they commit.”

Anchorage District Attorney Rick Allen says crime in Anchorage isn’t as simple as boiling it down to one cause.

“It's actually a super complex problem,” said Allen. “We got hit with an economic downturn, and then this massive drug problem. It's really unprecedented for us in terms of opiate and meth use that we're seeing right now.”

According to the 2017 Uniform Crime Reporting Program Annual Report on crime in Alaska, instances of burglary have risen 42 percent since 2013. The Anchorage Police Department agrees with Allen about what’s causing that rise.

“The rise in property crimes as a whole may be attributed to the drug problem this community currently faces much more so than to a piece of legislation,” said APD spokesperson Renee Oistad.

Dell says this isn’t the first time this has happened. The first time around, he says the perpetrator was definitely a drug user. But he says the man in the footage captured by his security camera looks like he knew what he was doing.

“This individual looks like he has a job, he's pretty clean-cut,” said Dell. “He certainly doesn't look like a drug addict like the person who broke into my home a few years ago.”

Allen does say there's some validity in Dell’s claim that rising burglary rates are attributable in part to SB91.

“The bail statutes from SB91, the original bail statutes, did not help things because addicts would come in and get arrested for committing a crime, and then the judges would have no choice but to release them,” Allen said.

House Bill 312, the public safety legislation that Governor Bill Walker signed into law in June, included a repeal of the controversial loophole in the SB91 pretrial bail system. Allen says HB312 gives autonomy back to judges in determining bail, and should reduce instances of property crime in Anchorage.

“So, hopefully that should be really reduced now that the governor signed the new bail bill, and the judges have discretion to apply bail when it's appropriate,” Allen said.

That comes as little assurance to Dell, who is calling for other homeowners to stand together against neighborhood crimes.

“If you see something, say something. Let's communicate with everybody together to try to stop this,” Dell said. “And get these individuals that are committing these crimes, and violating our spaces and our security and our safety, and put them behind bars where they need to be.”

Dell says he is still itemizing the total losses from the burglary, but he does have insurance to cover the damages.

APD says investigators have processed the evidence in this case, but security footage does not guarantee the burglar will be identified.

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