Calls for a greater law enforcement presence in an area are not new. In fact, the sentiment has been expressed not just in Nikiski, but in many communities around the state in response to a spate of crimes.
We heard those calls this week from the Nikiski community after a series of burglaries has left residents angry, afraid or frustrated. During a community meeting Wednesday, residents vented some of those frustrations. While it’s not the first time the Nikiski community has requested a greater law enforcement presence, there are two important things to take away from Wednesday’s dialogue.
The first is that the Alaska State Troopers are listening, and taking steps to address the issue. Trooper Captain Andy Greenstreet, the Soldotna detachment commander, said that troopers prioritize response to crimes against people over property crimes, and are spread thin across the Kenai Peninsula. However, he has assigned two experienced troopers to a crime suppression unit. With the Nikiski area growing, a long term solution will need to be developed, but the crime suppression unit is a good short term solution.
The other thing worth noting — and this may be the more important thing — is that the community is ready and willing to come together on the issue, and that it is not going to tolerate or turn a blind eye to the situation. By and large, the majority of people who live in Nikiski care deeply about their community, as evidenced by the hundreds of people who turned out for the meeting. That commitment gives us hope that the situation will improve, because it doesn’t matter how many law enforcement officers are stationed somewhere if community members no longer care what’s going on in their community. Clearly, that’s not the case in Nikiski.