City's top crime worry: speeding

Posted: Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Speeding, substance abuse, litter and poor lighting are the top crime issues concerning Juneau residents, according to a survey conducted by the Juneau Community Policing Project.

Ten topics were posed in the survey unveiled at a meeting Tuesday night at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School: gangs, drunken driving, drugs, speeding, vandalism, abandoned cars, burglary, domestic violence, assault and lighting.

Surveys were printed in the Empire, mailed and handed out at malls. Fewer than 400 were returned more than the average one percent response rate, said Juneau Police Chief Mel Personett.

Top community concerns were:

Speeding in neighborhoods.

Lighting of vulnerable areas.

Illegal drug use/substance abuse, including drunken driving.

Litter, including abandoned vehicles and garbage bear incidents.

Sgt. Steve Hernandez of the JPD's Community Services Unit said the survey was conducted to delineate basic concerns about law enforcement and crime prevention the community needs to take a stand on. The survey will provide a framework for future endeavors.

In bigger cities, citizens take stands on issues such as crack houses, drive-by shootings or gang action. In land-locked Juneau, "Quality of life issues may be speeding vehicles that keep kids from wanting to play outside," Hernandez said.

In traditional law enforcement, police efficiency is measured by arrest rates. The highest priorities are crimes involving large sums of money, such as robberies, and those involving violence, such as murder. In community policing, a broader, problem-solving approach is taken. Police efficiency is measured by the absence of crime and disorder and the highest priorities are whatever problems disturb the community most.

Caralyn Holmes, program manager with the Western Community Policing Center in Oregon, said residents need to "take risks and share power" with government and law enforcement agencies to create a safe community with an enviable quality of life.

Burglary rates have fallen 67 percent in some California communities as a result of community policing "but it doesn't happen overnight. It will take six to 10 years to see results" in Juneau, Holmes said.

State Sen. Kim Elton told the 30 people at the meeting that laws don't necessarily fix problems.

"People are going into (state prison) and coming out with the same addictions they went there with," he said.

When Elton was in junior high here in the early 1960s, "we kids knew that if we did something (wrong), somebody would recognize us and our parents would know. But you don't have that safety net any more."

Community policing could take its place, said Personett.

"The 'Dragnet' model ('Just the facts, Ma'am, and we'll handle it') does not work. We have been spinning our wheels for 50 years with that model," Personett said.

Sunday's Empire will feature more on community policing, detailing solutions suggested at Tuesday's meeting.

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