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Mat-Su Boro considers launching new police force

PALMER (AP) — Alaska's second largest municipality is considering options to deal with crime including a proposal to launch a new police force, officials said.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is analyzing the start of a borough police force with more than 100 officers, The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.

The Mat-Su force would handle calls outside the cities of Palmer and Wasilla in areas where the borough north of Anchorage is now patrolled by Alaska State Troopers, officials said.

Residents for several years have complained troopers do not always arrive when called, especially for trespassing, public drug use or thefts that may not be prioritized over urgent crimes including assaults.

Mat-Su residents last year approved a ballot initiative instructing the borough to investigate local policing powers. That task force is expected to make a recommendation to voters at the Mat-Su Assembly meeting in December, officials said.

Other options under consideration include smaller "police service areas" and a 21-member task force of existing law enforcement agencies focused on drug and property crimes. Officials are also considering enhanced safety measures such as additional code enforcement, drug addiction treatment, neighborhood watch, and security cameras.

Palmer and Wasilla have more than 15% of the borough's more than 106,000 residents and are served by individual police departments, officials said.

There are 54 patrol state trooper positions serving the remainder of Mat-Su and seven troopers plus a sergeant are normally on duty at any given time, said Megan Peters, an Alaska Department of Public Safety spokeswoman.

"We focus our efforts on where there is not adequate police presence," Peters said.