Juneau, AK (KINY) - Much like our interviews with Governor Bill Walker and Congressman Don Young, we got a hold of Former US Senator and Governor Candidate Mark Begich to talk about various issues throughout the state.
One of the main issues that has been on the minds of a lot of voters is how to better approach crime rates.
“First off, there's a huge lack of coordination between local and state on a regular basis," said Begich over the phone. "I think it's important as there are incredible needs, when you think about it with 40-plus state trooper positions fully funded, but not filled. We have a couple dozen in corrections, again fully funded, but not filled.”
“We have to have a much more aggressive effort to recruit and fill these positions that are currently funded. That will help us push back on crime and give us opportunities.”
Begich says that he also wants better cooperation with the state on prosecution.
“I would like to get a couple state prosecutors working inside the US Attorney's office, taking out the hardened criminals that are in our system and in our communities and basically get them dealt with through federal prosecution. That would get some hardened time, but also send them out of this state.”
Begich was also interested in the efforts to rehabilitate those committing crime, especially those who may have found themselves in rough waters due to drug addiction.
“We have to recognize 80% of our individuals that are in the correctional institutions are in there for substance abuse of some sort, so we need to deal with the opioid epidemic, but really a broader sweep and that is how are we going to ensure these individuals that might be first time offenders, but because of their substance abuse issues how do we move them in the right track using therapeutic courts and wellness courts.”
When it comes to the big picture in a crime rate decrease, Begich wants better communication overall.
“I think there's been a huge disconnect between all the different crime-fighting efforts and the results has been we’re now number one in the nation when it comes to crime. Honestly, that's just unacceptable and we have to be aggressive about how we attack this from a very multi-faceted approach.”
“That’s what I think is missing in the current leadership, as well as the legislature, their inability to see the bigger picture.”
Begich made his comments in an extensive interview with News of the North. He also spoke on his plans for the state's budget that will be available soon.