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ANCHORAGE - The Anchorage Police Department is restructuring its crime intervention unit to give it a more citywide focus than just downtown, officials said Monday.
The new vice squad will initially have five officers, a sergeant and its own clerk to oversee the city, Police Chief Walt Monegan said.
The intent is to eventually double the number of officers working the streets to proactively go after sexual predators. The department's projected budget for 2006 had funding for 16 new officers, and the five other vice officers could be funded from that, said Lt. Paul Honeman, a police spokesman.
The old crime intervention unit had only three detectives for work focused only on downtown, and the number of arrests were falling off, Monegan said.
The unit had become ineffective, Monegan said.
Criminals continued their crimes when they knew officers were off-duty, and the officers were finding themselves doing work that patrol officers should be doing, such as being in involved in two shootouts, he said.
"That's not their function," he said.
So, the department is trying a different strategy.
"We'll take the fight to them," he said of the new approach to go after sexual predators "before they get downtown."
The increased number of officers adds to unpredictability. "It gives us a little bit more of the surprise factor."
Part of that strategy will be working with prostitutes, who are often the victims of sexual assault but who won't report it for fear of arrest for their profession.
But prostitutes will be able to help identify sexual predators to police, Monegan said, by informing on people or even their vehicles to give officers a starting point.
"By working with prostitutes, this will help us gather more intel on sexual predators," Monegan said.
The new unit also will work with the district attorney's office to track sexual predators to make sure they are following the conditions of their bail and to bring others into compliance with the sexual offenders registry.