Federal designation puts Alaska in touch with millions to fight drug-trafficking

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, flanked by more than 30 law enforcement officials at a press conference Friday, May 18, 2018 (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media photo)

The state of Alaska is set to receive millions of federal dollars to combat illegal drugs after a recent “high-intensity drug-trafficking area” designation.

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Alaska is the last state to get the designation, which allows access to a total nationwide funding pool of $250 million. Public safety officials say the money will help facilitate collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement.

It remains unclear how much funding Alaska will receive or when it will be available.

Gov. Bill Walker announced the designation and touted his administration’s public safety action plan during a press conference Friday at the state crime lab. Walker, who is running for reelection this year, was flanked by more than 30 officials from various law enforcement agencies.

Walker said the state is in a position where it needs to rely more on federal resources for drug enforcement programs.

“In the past, we haven’t, and we haven’t gone after some things that perhaps we should’ve gone after,” Walker said. “So it’s a matter, I think, of prioritizing. You know, applying for grants takes time, it’s a lot of work, and we’re applying for a lots of grants and lots of different funding from the federal government.”

Despite that increasing reliance, Walker says he appreciates the state Legislature’s recent action to fund certain requests under his public safety plan.

“Not just funding, but also specific positions, prosecutors,” Walker said. “And so I think they recognize the need, the urgency of it, so I think they did the right thing on that. We could always use more, we would always appreciate more, but we’ll celebrate what we have.”

The legislation includes money to hire five new state prosecutors and $12 million to fight drug abuse.