The Kenai Peninsula's top state trooper told Nikiski civic and business leaders Thursday that troopers are looking at creating a substation at the Nikiski Community Center and assisting residents with a citizens' patrol, and that one trooper now resides in their community.
Addressing the concern of Nikiski residents over a recent rash of residential burglaries that plagued the community, Capt. Tom Bowman, commander of the Alaska State Trooper "E" Detachment on the Kenai Peninsula, told members of the Nikiski Chamber of Commerce that troopers are striving to maintain an effective law enforcement presence there.
He said that once the Nikiski Elementary School is converted into a community center, he would look at establishing the trooper substation using one classroom as a garage and one as a short-term holding cell and office area.
He also said troopers would assist with training a citizens' patrol if that's the direction the community decides to go to enhance law enforcement in Nikiski.
"A citizens' patrol is going to take a lot of training," he said.
"Who's going to be responsible for the actions they take and for the lack of action?" he asked rhetorically.
Bowman also said one "E" Detachment trooper and his family have moved to Nikiski.
"We have convinced one of our younger troopers to take a rental here. He now lives in this area," Bowman said.
The commander told the 28 business people in attendance that his detachment, with 27 troopers, is responsible for covering an area from Girdwood to Seward, Cooper Landing down to Homer and up to Captain Cook State Recreation Area.
He said that so far this year, the troopers under his command have responded to 3,766 cases.
"We are vastly outnumbered," Bowman said.
"The only reason we survive is that we get a lot of citizens' help."
In Nikiski, since the first of the year, troopers have had 43 car-related cases -- mostly accidents -- 12 assaults and 17 residential burglaries, he said.
"This is not a high crime area. You're comparable to other areas," Bowman said.
"My hope is that we'll get the substation, get the citizens' patrol and put more troopers in this area," he said.
He added that Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Gary Superman, who represents Nikiski, and state Rep. Mike Chenault of Nikiski are involved in the dialogue about enhanced law enforcement.
Speaking to the business group telephonically from Juneau, Chenault said his office has looked into obtaining some grant money to help fund additional law enforcement in Nikiski.
What he described as "people grants" being considered include one from the International Chiefs of Police, one from the Universal Hiring Program and a public safety grant from the Department of Justice.
Chenault also said he's looked at a rural law enforcement facility grant that provides money for supplies and buildings.
"We're here to try to help facilitate any activities you've got going there," he said.
During a question-and-answer session following Bowman's address, Superman asked if the state Department of Public Safety has a communication apparatus in place should Nikiski decide to create its own law enforcement entity or contract with troopers for additional services.
In the wake of numerous burglaries committed in the community late last year and earlier this year, the Nikiski Community Council created a special committee to study the practicality of creating a law enforcement service area similar to emergency medical and fire protection service areas that operate within the state.
The committee also is looking at possibly contracting with troopers for additional trooper presence.
"If you had a community group steering this law enforcement group, I would be attending those meetings," Bowman said.
"You are our customers," he said.
Responding to one member of the audience who asked if a public demonstration outside trooper headquarters would generate any beneficial publicity, Bowman said the elected officials representing Nikiski already are aware of what the area's law enforcement issues are.
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