HALL and CONKLING: Prop 13 will make Anchorage safer

Anchorage. (Photo by Matt Buxton/TMS)

This editorial is by Tiffany Hall, executive director of Recover Alaska, and Jeremy Conkling, president of Anchorage Police Department Employees Association.

To submit letters for consideration to run on The Midnight Sun, contact editor Matt Buxton at [email protected]

Nobody cares more about public safety than we do. APDEA is made up of hundreds of police officers, all of whom run towards the danger that others run away from. Every day, our officers see domestic violence, assault, child abuse, and substance misuse wreak havoc on our community. Our Dispatchers take the frantic 911 calls that are a direct result of substance misuse.  Likewise, our team at Recover Alaska knows firsthand how alcohol misuse endangers lives and escalates violence. We are committed to reducing the harms of alcohol misuse, and helping Alaskans recover.

We know that Proposition 13 will make our community safer. It enacts a five percent alcohol tax and dedicates the revenue to address the drivers of crime and bolster our capacity to respond to crime. To those of us that see these challenges firsthand, there is no denying that these additional resources will make a difference.

We all want our tax dollars to be well-spent on services that we care about, so Recover Alaska surveyed the community to see how Anchorage residents would prioritize new funding. The results were not surprising: we want our community to be safer. We want fewer kids to experience abuse, fewer people to experience domestic violence, fewer people living on the street, we want more police officers and first responders, and we want to make sure those who are mentally ill or dealing with addiction have access to treatment.

Revenue from the alcohol tax will be dedicated solely to: increasing law enforcement and first responders; reducing child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault; increasing treatment services and reducing homelessness. The ballot measure amends the charter to ensure that the revenue is dedicated to those purposes, so that no politician can take the funds and use them for something else. There will be a public process to engage residents and subject-matter experts to determine specific program allocations. The funds will be accounted for in a separate account outside of the general fund, and subject to an annual reporting requirement so that we all know how they were used.

At Recover Alaska, we’ve seen the evidence, and it’s pretty overwhelming: alcohol taxes work. They reduce harmful drinking, and as a result save lives and reduce the negative consequences of alcohol misuse. As Mark Kleiman, a drug and criminal justice policy expert at New York University’s Marron Institute, argues: ““The single most effective thing you can to reduce crime right away is to raise the price of alcohol… It doesn’t cost you anything. You don’t have to kick in anybody’s door. You just have to change a number in the tax code and crime goes down.”

At APDEA, we’re proud that with a police force that has grown considerably in the last couple of years, we have helped turn the corner on crime. Burglaries and shoplifting are down. Car theft was down by around 50% in 2019.

Still, we want to do more. We work hard every shift just to keep up with 911 calls and respond to them.  Unfortunately, this can mean prioritizing the most serious crimes over smaller incidents. With additional officers, not only can we continue to improve our response capabilities, we can become more proactive.

The people that our officers see over and over again are not well. Many have deep scars from years of trauma and abuse. Many cope with alcohol or other drugs. We know they need help, but often there is nowhere for them to go. So, they cycle through our system — through our jails, our emergency rooms, our ambulances, and our patrol cars. We will keep responding, but we know there is more that can be done. We need to break the cycle and stop the abuse of our children. We need to make sure our neighbors have the chance to heal. Proposition 13 will help.

We are proud to serve and protect the people of Anchorage. We are proud to bring people the dignity of recovery. Together, we are committed to making our homes safer. We know what the problems are, and we know what we need to do. Proposition 13 will help us make Anchorage safer. This spring, we ask Anchorage voters to have our community’s back, and vote yes on 13.

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