Fairbanks police focus on chronic street drunks

Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2009

FAIRBANKS - Police have formed a task force to enact a zero tolerance policy for crime in downtown Fairbanks.

The Daily News-Miner reports it's a response to reports that a larger, younger population of chronic inebriates is becoming increasingly violent.

The four officers in the task force will be patrolling regularly until Oct. 1, looking to cite anyone who breaks the law. The task force is funded from unfilled positions in the department.

After two months on the job, Police Chief Laren Zager said he was surprised by the stories he heard from downtown business owners about groups of drunks harassing customers and tourists.

Zager said he learned at the meetings that the population of chronic drunks seems to be up, and that the increase is caused by younger people, who are more prone to violence and crime.

Some employees downtown are threatening to quit or bring guns to work for protection.

"It's so far out of control, and I had no idea," he said. "It's really at a climax point."

Besides the increase in vandalism and assaults on businesspeople, Zager said there is evidence the younger population of chronic inebriates is assaulting and stealing from the older generation.

Officers will continue to take chronic inebriates into protective custody if they are not committing a crime.

A year ago, Zager's predecessor, Dan Hoffman, described the chronic inebriate population as a group of 50 to 100 mostly middle-age men. Fairbanks police now believe that there are 200 or more in town.



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