ANCHORAGE (AP) -- City officials and public service agencies are exploring ways to deal with a growing problem of public inebriates.
In a five-year stretch, the number of public inebriates transported by Anchorage's Community Service Patrol jumped 29 percent, from 10,034 in 1996 to a record 12,937 in 2000.
Residents of one neighborhood complained last week that a group drinking in the woods north of the Northern Lights Boulevard and Seward Highway intersection posed a health and safety problem. People were urinating and defecating in the woods and homes were burglarized.
The complaints brought about a response from a liquor store owner.
Ed O'Neill, one of the owners of a nearby Brown Jug liquor store, contacted a representative of the land owners and sent over a crew to clean it up. The crew cut down trees and collected three 60-gallon bags of trash.
''We are taking an aggressive approach,'' O'Neill said. ''We are part of the problem, so we want to be part of the solution.''
Carrie Longoria, manager of Anchorage's Safe Cities program, which includes services for the homeless, said the agency also will contact property owners whose land is being used as camps and will arrange for cleanup on city land.
Liquor store operators have begun to meet on the problem, O'Neill said. He wants to see an end to sales of the cheap vodka favored by street people. Brown Jug's cheapest brand is a few dollars more than a competitor's, he said.
Assemblyman Dick Traini is looking into whether a panhandling ordinance could be brought back.
''We've lost a lot of our tools over the years,'' said Anchorage police Sgt. Gary Apperson. Some acts that used to be crimes, such as drinking in public, now are civil violations that generate fines but not more serious sanctions.
Assemblyman Allen Tesche wants to address the void with a ''conduct'' ordinance similar to one that he says has worked well in Portland, Ore.
Anyone who commits certain behaviors on city park and recreation land, on school grounds or inside the downtown bus depot could be barred from the site for 30 days. The prohibited behaviors include drinking in public, public excretion and indecent exposure.
If someone returned to the site before the 30 days were up, the city could press trespassing charges, just as private property owners can do.
One part of the answer is more treatment, said Longoria and Mike Huelsman, chairman of a public inebriate task force formed in 1999.
The city is applying for a federal grant to set up a special court program for hard-core inebriates. The program would monitor defendants and tailor services for them such as help with housing and treatment.
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