I first came to Nikiski in 1979. I became a property owner here in 1989 and have resided here ever since. The community has evolved from boomtown to a sparsely populated residential area, with most subdivisions having lots of an acre or more. Our population has grown substantially since my early days running National Bank of Alaska's branch in the Nikishka Mall, but we're still a close-knit community; we know one another out here pretty well.
There was no Alaska State Trooper patrol out here in 1979, and I don't know exactly when regular patrols began. I believe patrols were in place when I returned here in 1984 from a few years of going broke running a business in Anchorage. Now there is a movement to establish some form of local law enforcement which would cover the same area as the firefighting and EMS service area, including the west side of Cook Inlet.
We are still a predominantly rural area with few roads in some areas and virtually no roads on the west side. The logistics of such an operation would be expensive and expansive. I know most people envision one police car driving up and down the highways and byways, but as the scope of the operation becomes apparent, more options for transportation will be needed, including boats and aircraft. Given the size of the patrol area just on this side of the inlet, I doubt one patrol car would be much of a deterrent to property crime. A community watch program might be more effective in this role.
One of the ideas posited for providing this one patrol car is the Kenai police, but they want two officers in the car, doubling the necessary work force and increasing the expense proportionately. I do, however, agree that two officers per vehicle would be reasonable and prudent for the safety of the officers. I cannot predict the future, but I can see a scenario in which people demand more service as the industrial property tax base shrinks, eventually leaving individuals to make up the deficit with some sort of public funding, most likely increased property taxes.
If I saw the need for additional law enforcement in Nikiski, I might want to pursue one of the options I have heard discussed, but the bottom line for me is that I don't see the need. We have always prided ourselves on settling our differences among ourselves here in Nikiski, and in the few instances this is not possible and laws are broken, the troopers have been enough help to resolve the situation. I'm not talking vigilante law, just simple common sense and cooperation.
When the people of Nikiski vote on a proposal for local law enforcement, I think it should be a limited proposal with finite boundaries of scope and responsibility. For now, for the reasons iterated above and others, I'll vote to keep things as they are.
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