Enter Los Anchorage: Where Homicides Are Haunting the Last Frontier

Words by Kokayi Nosakhere

In this age of social media-driven marketing schemes and distrust of the mainstream media, this journalist thanks you for choosing to take interest in the small town, big city antics of a community organizer.

I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. This is Alaska’s largest city. Only 738,000 people live in all of Alaska.

I come from a “legendary” neighborhood called Fairview on the North side of Anchorage. When I was a child, the population of Alaska’s largest city was only 50,000. The businesses along both sides of 4th and 5th street downtown were collectively nicknamed, “The Longest Bar in the World.” So, think “wild wild west”.

A steady increase in population hasn’t improved the reputation of the Last Frontier. At 300,000, Anchorage just enjoyed its highest year of homicides at 34. [1]

34 deaths isn’t significant in murder capitals like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta. 34 people might die on a Friday evening between when bars let out and the sun comes up.

Sometimes, it doesn’t pay for an area to be uniquely branded. Residents become stuck psychologically, unable to perceive themselves the way others do. This blindness is an obstacle to clear communication. Right now, it is confusing Anchorage’s response to youth violence. Our babies are starting to kill each here like they do in the Lower 48.

This is remarkable because Anchorage, Alaska isn’t known in the national imagination as a place of violence. We are the land of the Iditarod, a thousand mile dog sled race.

We are the land of natural splendor and beauty, where climate change can be seen in year by year installments as the arctic ice cap shrinks.

It is not popularly known that the Natives in Alaska were treated very similarly as the Natives in the Lower 48.

A small controversy over acknowledging the work of Black people to build the Alcan highway in the state legislature is an echo of Lower 48 racial contention. Curiously, the bill was put forth by a Black Republican. [2]

What we do have is a lot of drunks, more rape than we care to want to see, and assaults. We just don’t really kill each other. Last year, we crossed that bridge. 34 persons were killed. We even had a serial killer of five persons.

For a subarctic city of 300,000, that’s a lot.

Community council meetings last summer became contentious. Just as contentious as recent Town Hall meetings over health care. It’s hard to calm residents down who are afraid of being killed while walking down well-lit sidewalks and bike paths.

On Friday, April 7, 2017 a young man named LeRoy Lawrence lost his life. He was an innocent bystander, shot in the crossfire meant for another young man. A second young man was shot, twice through his calves, who remains in the hospital. The police have not released his name.

This development is heartbreaking for me. Since January of this year, I’ve worked with a group in Mountain View to prevent deaths like Leroy’s by improving the quality of parenting.

Out of fear, a few within the parenting group supported the idea of a 1996 curfew law being enforced. Because the police are not seen in Mountain View, it was perceived that their presence would be as deterrent.

All public policy is an experiment in democracy. A resolution was drafted and brought before the community council. It was read during a meeting where the Anchorage Police Department was presenting.

Under the previous mayoral administration, the police department was cut to the bone. The new mayor was elected in part to restore the police department to full strength. Two academies were conducted and now 31 new police officers are available.

The officer reported that the curfew was being enforced. It was enforced 31 times since 2016. The community is right in the lack of presence. Follow ups were not happening.

Many residents were directed to fill out a police report on-line. Those reports, however, are not being follow up as priority. Because of the low number of officers, this makes sense. As more officers are trained the more capacity the public will see the police demonstrate.

At the time of this writing, the parenting group is focused on planning out a family day, in order to heal the community. No one knows what else to do, except heal and seek to prevent another death through greater relationship bonds.

  1. https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/anchorage/2016/12/31/anchorages-deadly-year-with-34-homicide-victims-violence-hits-home/
  2. https://www.alaskacommons.com/2017/…
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