By: Daniella Rivera
Recently promoted to serve as Anchorage’s district attorney, Brittany Dunlop says crime hasn’t stopped amid the coronavirus pandemic and her office has adapted to keep up safely.
“I’ve heard it described as building a bicycle while you’re trying to ride it,” she said.
Initially, there were logistics to work out as prosecutors and staff members figured out how to work from home, new trials and some hearings were cancelled and the court system moved to telephonic proceedings.
“Once, you know, a week or so of that, people are absolutely catching up on old cases and getting a backlog worked through,” Dunlop said.
The Anchorage district attorney’s office filed 287 new felonies in March, compared to the 255 felonies filed in March 2019, according to Dunlop.This month, prosecutors have filed 138 new felonies, up from 88 in April 2019. Misdemeanor filings are up slightly for both months as well.
The increase alone doesn’t necessarily point to an uptick in crime, Dunlop said. The numbers fluctuate based on several factors.
She provided the filing numbers to show that despite COVID-19 impacts on the court system, her office is still prosecuting cases at, if not above, the rate it was a year ago.
Under new leadership, the priorities of the office will remain the same, Dunlop said.
The focus is on combating violent crimes: domestic violence, sexual assault and homicides, along with “whatever other crime walks in the door.”
Partnerships with agencies that represent victims are also important.
Dunlop’s predecessor, John Novak, who is retiring, made prosecuting cases involving strangulation a priority. He led several community trainings to educate people, including members of law enforcement, about the signs and dangers of strangulation.
“The strangulation training that John helped implement is statewide and that’s something that we’re gonna keep doing statewide,” Dunlop said. “My unique background is I spent a lot of time prosecuting sex assault and child abuse cases. Those are the cases I feel really passionately about and I think bring some expertise.”
Dunlop is a lifelong Alaskan who has been working as a prosecutor in Alaska since 2006, when she first joined the misdemeanor unit in the Anchorage DA’s office.
She worked her way up to supervising the sexual assault unit before transferring to the Palmer DA’s office where she focused on sex crimes and domestic violence cases.
In 2019, Dunlop was promoted to deputy district attorney in Anchorage.
“I really enjoy holding people accountable. I enjoy protecting the community. I enjoy partnering with law enforcement and I love the Anchorage office. I feel like we’re always marching in the same direction towards the common good,” she said. “And you know, the people that work here work really hard, but they’re doing it for the right reasons and I’m happy to lead that team.”
She said her father, who is a law enforcement officer in Florida, was her inspiration for pursuing a career as a prosecutor. While her new role includes more administrative work, she still intends to be in the courtroom — once in-person hearings resume.
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