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Grassroots group of volunteers seeks to decrease violent crimes in Anchorage

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A newly created community action group in Anchorage has launched a campaign to address violence and urge people to foster safety in Alaska's largest city.

The group, which calls itself "We Are Anchorage," gathered Monday morning in a grocery store parking lot to encourage people to push for safety, the Alaska Dispatch News (http://is.gd/WnC0RF ), an Anchorage newspaper, reported.

The group formed following a string of violence in Anchorage in January. The group also has organized a March 12 mayoral candidate forum, to be held at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

"We thought (the candidate forum) was a good starting point," said group member Miriam Aarons, adding that the Anchorage Police Department took part in setting up the forum. "I personally don't know who I'm voting for, so it will be great to engage some of those candidates."

Police Chief Mark Mew recently announced the creation of a temporary task force that aims to suppress violent crimes. In late January, Mew said there had been 31 credible reports of gunfire since the beginning of the new year —more than twice the number reported the two previous years.

In its first week, the task force made 18 arrests and seized 35 guns, according to police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro.

Gun violence is pervasive in the city, noted Melissa Emmal, deputy director of Abused Women's Aid in Crisis. Among the issues the We Are Anchorage group needs to address is how the public perceives violent crime in Anchorage, she said.

"People who come into this community through family and friends, through a workplace, what would they say about the violence?" Emmal said. "Would they view that it's not tolerated or that it's typical? Unfortunately, right now they would likely say that violence is the norm."


Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, http://www.adn.com

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