This story was originally written for The Northern Light.
Anchorage police say community policing has made a once notorious hotel in Fairview a less severe threat.
The Black Angus Inn sits on the corner of Gambell and 15th Avenue. The inn was established in 1960. Guests can rent it by the week, paying approximately $305.76. The location has historically been a magnet for police calls. At its peak over the last five years, officers visited more than once a day on average. Those numbers are down. Police and politicians say it’s a sign that the hotel is improving, though there continues to be challenges.
Anchorage Police officer Sally Jones has worked for APD for 14 years. Jones became attached to Fairview because of the Sarah Project, a UAA project conducted several years ago focusing on the homeless population in the area. According to Jones, Fairview is close to her heart. She, along with others at APD, have suggested changes to the Black Angus that would lessen Calls for Service.
“We recommended more lighting, we recommended ID’s, we recommended fencing. That fence that they have now was our idea,” said Jones.
Jones believes that the adjustments made to the inn have helped improve the area, but the inn is still a work in progress.
“With the Black Angus, it’s low income. Usually, when people get their first checks or native checks they like to go to the Black Angus,” said Jones. “They were really doing well, and now they’re sort of dropping again. They have security, sometimes it isn’t the best, but they’re working on it.”
Even though several disputes have been solved at the inn, Jones says that the establishment needs to focus on one of their biggest problems — bedbugs.
“When we go to these places, there are airborne pathogens, somebody has TB, Hepatitis C, and the biggest thing right now is bedbugs. We go into a location and we ask what we’re getting into.”
In 2015, 251 Calls for Service have been generated for the Black Angus Inn. Although this number is high, it has dramatically declined since 2013, when 390 Calls for Service were made, meaning that just over one call per day was made in 2013.
Paul Honeman, University of Alaska Anchorage police officer and retired APD officer of 23 years, believes that the inn has made changes over the past several years to lower the crime rate in the area. Honeman explains that the Black Angus Inn lost a series of rooms as well as an annex after the reconstruction of 15th Avenue. He believes that since the reconstruction, crime rates have gone down in the area.
“Ironically, the annex was where we used to see drug deals, prostitution. I mean, people were just running open-air market right off of 15thAvenue. It was like a Walgreens drive-thru.”
According to Honeman, APD charges businesses and residential addresses that exceed a specific amount of Calls for Service in a year. After 100 calls to a business, they are fined $500 for each response. For residences, it’s eight. Fines are imposed to the owners of the inn, but Anchorage police are also paying the cost for their time at the Black Angus Inn. Honeman explains that constant calls to the inn are not only expensive to the establishment, but to APD as well.
“The estimate is the cost of the officer, plus benefits, plus the vehicle, plus the fuel. You add it all in and its easy $100 an hour. If you double an officer to a call, it’s $200.”
In 2011, there were 361 Calls for Service at the Black Angus Inn. In 2012, there were 307, in 2013, there were 390, in 2014, there were 271, and in 2015 there have been 251 Calls for Service thus far. Jennifer Castro, Communications Director for APD believes that small changes to the inn are the result for fewer Calls for Service this year.
“APD recommended the management to install a gate on the 15th Avenue side and the Fairbanks St. side of the property. They had to remove or reduce some of the landscaping also to improve visibility,” said Castro. “They had to improve the lighting as well under the covered parking area. These improvements seem to have helped in reducing the Calls for Service.”
The amount of small changes made to the Black Angus Inn over the past several years has lowered the Calls for Service. Even though there have been 251 Calls for Service thus far for 2015, that’s almost 120 less than two years before. Further improvements need to be made at the inn to continue lowering those numbers, but for now, it’s a work in progress.