Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan says local police will deploy additional officers in the Downtown area during weekend “bar break” hours beginning Friday, in response to rising concerns about violence.
According to a statement from Sullivan’s office, eight more officers will be assigned to the overnight shift, with some conducting Downtown foot patrols while others in police cruisers patrol the area.
“We want to make sure that everyone can enjoy the downtown district and feel safe in our city,” said Mayor Dan Sullivan. “The additional enforcement will deter crime and encourage residents to act safely and responsibly.”
APD spokesperson Jennifer Castro declined to discuss exact details on when the officers would be deployed overnight, but says efforts will be focused on the Downtown area. She gave a general timeframe for when they would hit the streets.
"It'll be throughout the evening, potentially starting at about 11 p.m.," Castro said.
According to Castro, the change comes after various APD units began brainstorming ways to address bar-break incidents. She says police tend to think of crime as having three possible causes, but didn't speculate on what was behind the Downtown situation.
"Is it a location issue, is it a victim-type issue or is it a suspect issue?" Castro said.
The officers involved have been redeployed from various shifts and units, using a mix of shift transfers and overtime. Castro says their presence will help APD both respond to calls for assistance and support its own members, following the deployment of four additional officers on overtime last weekend.
"It demands a lot from the department in terms of response," Castro said.
The announcement follows a wave of violent incidents near local bars this year, some of which have proven deadly. Adrian Augustine, 38, died at a local hospital last month, nearly a week after he and his wife were beaten by unknown suspects in a parking lot behind the Gaslight Lounge at about 3:15 a.m. Oct. 19. Three men were shot and injured outside the Anchor Pub and Club shortly after 3 a.m. June 15.
In response to criticism from community groups, some bar owners have said that the issues Downtown stem from a lack of police coverage.
In March, the Anchorage Assembly allowed bars to stay open for another hour beyond their 3 a.m. last call serving food but no alcohol, in a move meant to alleviate a sudden flood of drunken patrons onto Downtown streets. Assembly member Patrick Flynn had proposed moving last call an hour forward to 2 a.m., but that suggestion wasn’t adopted.
According to Sullivan’s office, Friday’s announcement comes after talks among his office, APD Chief Mark Mew, concerned citizens, Downtown business owners and local bar and restaurant group Anchorage CHARR.