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Crime continues to decrease in capital city

Posted: September 10, 2013 - 11:08pm  |  Updated: September 11, 2013 - 12:02am

Crime in Juneau began declining in 2011, and the Juneau Police Department’s annual report for 2012 shows the trend continued last year.

The report comes just three months after Chief of Police Bryce Johnson assumed leadership of the department.

“This is truly a shared community achievement that crime rates are going down,” Johnson told the city Assembly Monday night.

Juneau experienced a 13.9 percent decrease in violent crimes, along with a 9 percent decrease in number of arrests and a decrease in officer-initiated police action.

The department is studying the numbers to understand why arrests and officer-initiated actions declined, Johnson said, adding that arrest statistics typically should not change dramatically year to year.

While praising his department’s personnel and work ethic, Johnson said the next step is working on crimes that are not in the annual report.

“We know that more crime happens than is reported. We want to be sure to capture that,” Johnson said. “That starts with community outreach and building a positive relationship between the community and police.”

The report did show an increase of about 30 percent in drug seizures, though Johnson suspects drug use did not change.

He added that partnerships with other entities likely spurred the increase in seizures.

“There are only so many ways to get drugs into Juneau,” Johnson said. “You can’t drive them in, so there are partnerships that help there.”

The report also showed a rise in heroin abuse. The rise is likely the result of users moving from abusing painkillers to heroin, Johnson said.

“When people run out of pills the addiction does not stop, so they tend to move to heroin,” he said.

Partnerships similar to those used to combat Juneau’s drug problems are key to the department’s future plans, Johnson said.

For example, the department is currently working with mental health professionals to develop an action plan for dealing with those problems.

Additional expansion from within the department is challenging due to funding issues, but the department is not unable to adequately protect the city currently, Johnson said.

“If funding goes up we can always do more, but we can maintain core service now,” he said.

Those ambitions would include another officer working on drug issues, a dedicated traffic officer and officers focused on serving the cities school system.

Starting in October, the department will have five officers assigned to airport security to comply with federal regulations for international efforts.

There are no talks underway to add positions at the department currently.

“This is a great department. Like all organizations, it has weaknesses, but the people are good, and the department is healthy and high-functioning,” Johnson said.

• Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com or at 523-2243.

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