Nome Public Safety Advisory panel urges reopening of Nome Youth Facility
The Nome Public Safety Advisory Commission, NPSAC for short, in last Monday’s regular bi-monthly meeting held a vote to recommend the Nome Common Council investigates opportunities reopen holding facilities for juvenile offenders.
City Manager Glenn Steckman brought up the importance of a youth facility in Nome after the recent increase in juvenile crime. It is a liability of the police department to hold underage youth and it is unsafe to house them in Anvil Mountain Correctional Facility, stated Steckman. The discussion about a facility has already been held earlier this year with village communities expressing they have no place to hold juveniles, either. Steckman thinks the discussion should be reopened.
“You can’t arrest a child then turn around and set them free with no repercussions,” said Steckman.
In his city manager report Steckman reminded the panel of Nome Police Chief Michael Heintzelman’s retirement. His retirement date is October 27 which was extended from the original date of May 6.
The city will be putting out an ad for a new police chief and the NPSAC will participate in the interview process.
If there is not a replacement by the time Heintzelman’s contract is up, the Deputy Chief William Crockett will step up or an interim chief will be hired.
“We’re sorry to see him [Heintzelman] leave but I understand, though I think he’s gonna melt where he’s moving to,” said Steckman, referring Heintzelman’s move to Florida.
Steckman went on to announce he will be proposing a change to city ordinances, to make it required for all ATVs in town to have a license. The reason for this change is to enforce some laws that already exist for ATVs like a requirement for a license plate on the vehicle on a state road, and children under 18 and passengers are required to wear a helmet.
Chief Heintzelman included, September will be ATV Safety Month again with an enforcement impact. In 2023 there has been an increase of motor vehicle accidents in the city with many of them involving ATVs not being properly operated.
“The ultimate goal if you’re gonna use an ATV is to have safe operation of it, and be licensed,” said Heintzelman.
The Nome Police Department will advertise the changes in enforcement of ATVs so it will not come as a surprise to residents.
Steckman provided the update that liquor stores have agreed to reduce their hours of sale by one hour Monday through Saturday, now closing at 9 p.m. The initiative will continue to be monitored to see if there is a decrease in alcohol related incidents.
Commissioner Traci McGarry raised the issue of non-working vehicles left to sit on property and being broken into.
Steckman said the city is aware of the issue and plans to do another ‘U call we haul’ in mid-September to clean up the number of abandoned vehicles around town.
In the accreditation update Chief Heintzelman said the police department is progressing very well.
The Nome Police Department building will need to create an enclosure that secures impounded vehicles. The process for that has begun with installing an extensive camera system, now they need a secure facility to lock vehicles in.
Officers are working on training for the accreditation.
The biggest setback in the accreditation is the lack of dispatchers currently in employment. The Nome Police Department has put out advertisements for the position and are actively looking for candidates.
Heintzelman said the evidence custodian is in the process of being hired full time which will allow for evidence barcoding and other similar accreditation requirements to begin.
In the quarterly report for the police department Chief Heintzelman talked about two new officers who recently joined the Nome team, Chelsea Griffin and Leighton McNabb. Before they are official, the officers need to complete proper training and pass a psychological test. The test must be mailed out which has extended the process of approval, as the completed tests sat in the Nome Post Office for over a week, said Heintzelman. The officers will be on the road by the next rotation.
Statistics for the 2023 season show a decline in sexual assault cases this year. There is also a decline in calls about intoxicated persons. 2023 has seen an increase in felony charges. The court system has resumed trials to catch up from the COVID backlog.
Commission Chair Carol Piscoya said she was happy to see the police department accreditation coming along so well. She is impressed with the general improvements the police department has made over the years under the guide of Chief Heintzelman.
Her final comment she voiced her concern for law enforcement being able to keep up with the upcoming port expansion proposal and Graphite One project which will bring more people into Nome’s community.
“I think we need to be thinking and talking about how we’re going to respond to those issues because it is going to be here,” said Piscoya about Graphite One and the port expansion.
In response to this Chief Heintzelman said a huge issue is housing for police officers.
The meeting concluded with no further action taken.