Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Reports on the Juneau police and fire departments and the blueprint downtown project highlighted the meeting of the Assembly Committee of the Whole .
The Blueprint Downtown plan has gone on for over five months. Over 220 people have taken part so far in public meetings. They've received over 420 comments online. They collected 428 on street surveys, and reached between 800 and 1,000 people.
CBJ Community Development; MRV Architects, Lucid Reverie, and Sheinberg Associates are part of the project.
The study is expected to be completed on February 15. Emerging themes and priorities include business vitality with more of a year-round focus, public safety, services for the homeless, sustainability and mitigation of tourism impacts, a celebration of Juneau's identify and culture, showcasing the natural environment, enhanced pedestrian access and experience and more downtown housing. A final walking tour to focus on culture in Juneau is scheduled for Saturday, January 19.
Assembly member Wade Bryson made comments about year round business and downtown housing.
Robert Voelkers said the issues that have really resonated with the public are safety, services for the homeless, and a focus on year round business. A final public meeting at Centennial Hall is scheduled for January 24th from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. They will present emerging themes and provide a final opportunity for public input.
More information is available at blueprintdowntown.org
Crime dropping in Juneau?
Police Chief Ed Mercer said most crime has dropped over 10-percent during the first three quarters of 2018. There were 1,370 part one crimes. They range from vehicle theft and burglary to homicide. There was two homicides last year in Juneau. Arrests are down by 3.99 percent, a total of 1,514. There were over 49,000 calls for service in the first nine months of 2018.
The Department remains down eight full time officers. "When we have staff available we have more self initiated calls, officers are more diligent, and are more proactive."
He noted electronic evidence like video cameras puts an additional work load on the staff. "Cases that used to be classified as no leads or suspects are now requiring our staff to knock on doors and see if they have surveillance videos that might be useful."
Our officers work much more complex cases and are officers have to work much harder. For example they even download video for simple traffic stops that result in citations. They are purchasing software that will speed up the downloading of videos so officers can be on the street more.
Officer initiated calls increased from 15,276 during the first nine months of 2017 to 16,997 in 2018. Caller initiated incidents went down from 15,996 in 2017 to 14,143 in 2018.
The staff of 46 police officers is doing the work of 57 officers. They continue to beef up recruitment efforts. They have hired nine officers in 2018. They also signed an agreement with the US Army trying to attract veterans to police work. They have two applicants in the selection process.
This year they plan to continue to recruit new Officers and Dispatchers , continue to advertise locally and within Southeast , and working towards solutions to reduce officer time downloading body and mobile videos. They also plan to switch more low level property crimes without leads or suspects to online reporting and continue to offer signing bonuses to officers.
They added two civilian investigator positions and established hiring bonuses in 2018.
The dispatch center is down five dispatchers. The current dispatchers are working 128 hours of overtime each week to meet the demands of the department.
Chief Mercer said overtime could play a role in the loss of employees. He said a priority should be to keep up with other departments when it comes to salaries they offer police officers. "We are not getting the application pool to gradually fill these positions as we move forward. We have always had vacancies, but at this level, it is concerning to me."
Mercer also advocated for a strong training budget and encouraging career development. "I think morale is low in some regard. Climbing a mountain over and over. They do the best job every day and sometimes get the same results. Having to cover shifts having to cover overtime. I'm concerned about morale. Its taxing trying to keep your working group motivated. They do it. They do a great job and they have to do it every single day."
Capital City Fire Rescue Chief Rich Etheridge reported that the length of service for volunteers is down to an average of 3.7 years. It is much more harder to volunteer as many have to work two jobs to make ends meet. They also have a tough time retaining paramedics. 17 paramedics have left CCFR in the past 10 years. Firefighters leave for a variety of reasons, career advancement, better salary, less work demands and having a lower cost of living in the new location.
They are trying to attract more young people in high school to fire and rescue service. The distance program has helped attract four people who are studying to become paramedics. They also have a $25,000 negotiated retention bonus. They also want to lower the age to become firemen from 21 to 18. They also have a new recruitment video on the CCFR website. They revitalized the borough wide firefighter association to attract new programs, fund raising, and attract applicants.
The department recently received a homeland security grant for dispatch. They also are working on funds for lifting devices that would limit the need to bring fire engines to medical calls. Positions are also being filled to have a third ambulance. Another focus is to create a new staffed fire station in Lemon Creek.