Contributed by Colleen Sullivan-Leonard
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
By the time you read this, I will be in Juneau and I didn't want to go without providing you a summary of what I have been working in January for District 7.
As you may be aware, Representative Mark Neuman and I held a Public Safety Town Hall meeting recently to address community safety issues. This was a follow up meeting from a few years ago, and we felt that it was timely to talk with our community before going to Juneau.
We were pleased to have a panel consisting of Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, Wasilla Police Chief Gene Belden, Palmer Police Chief Lance Ketterling, District Attorney Roman Kalytiak, AST Colonel Jim Cockrell and our Criminal Suppressions Unit, as well as Belinda Bohanan from AST Neighborhood Watch and Vicki Wallner from Stop Valley Thieves.
We had a productive exchange of information between our panel and our audience; it is clear that our community is engaged and is willing and able to assist our law enforcement. Below is my overview of the meeting.
I was pleased to hear of the success of our Mat-Su (CSU) Criminal Suppressions Unit that was established in 2014. Statistics show that burglary and theft had reduced by 38% in the first year of their inception but high drug related crimes remain a high concern. You may have also read of the Department of Public Safety’s announcement of an Anchorage drug dealer selling in Mat-Su who was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison for distributing large amounts of brown heroin and bath salts. There is discussion of expanding our Mat-Su Drug Enforcement Unit by joining forces with Wasilla and Palmer Police.
Neighborhood Watch coordinator, Belinda Bohanan, presented helpful information on how to form a Neighborhood Watch program to make it tougher for criminals to steal your personal property. If you are interested in establishing a program in your neighborhood, you can contact her at 745-2131.
Vicki Wallner presented from Stop Valley Thieves social media Facebook group. Her social media outreach has helped considerably in keeping the community aware of crime in our community and has been very helpful to our public safety professionals in the work they do when they can't have boots on the ground in all areas of the Valley.
SB91 was discussed by the panel and audience members; it is clear that changes need to be made to make it clear that doing drugs will have consequences and should not result in a quick release back into the community where many re-offend. We will be looking at this legislation to consider amendments in the areas that are most concerning.
Edie Grunwald was in our audience and I wore her button “I ♥ David Grunwald” to convey my support for her efforts toward justice for the heinous crimes committed against her son, David. As a mother of seven and grandma of three, I cannot imagine what she and her family are going through. I offer my sincere condolences and prayers to her and her family. Our community is grieving with the Grunwald family.
Thank you to everyone who attended our public safety meeting, I will keep you posted on future meetings and information as I receive it.
I will continue to work hard for you, District 7 and the State of Alaska. I want to hear from you while I’m in Juneau! I will send regular newsletters, emails, Facebook posts and will return home for town hall meetings to update you on what is going on in Juneau.
Best regards to you and yours,