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Crime bill amendment targets abduction attempts

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — After a man walked into an Anchorage elementary school in mid-January attempting to take a 10-year-old girl while falsely claiming to be her father, authorities found they could only charge him with criminal trespass.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat from Anchorage, offered an amendment to the Senate omnibus crime bill Wednesday that would make such actions a criminal offense of custodial interference.

The amendment, among others, came as the Senate Judiciary Committee took public testimony on the bill.

The sweeping Senate bill is an effort to slow down Alaska's skyrocketing incarceration rate. Among the bill's provisions are raising the bar for what qualifies as a class C felony, establishing a sobriety program, giving offenders credit for time served in a residential treatment facility, and establishing a fund to assist newly released inmates to prevent re-entry into the criminal justice system.

It will have another hearing Friday.

Wielechowski's amendment came after the girl's mother testified about the attempted abduction in Anchorage.

She said a man walked into the school falsely claiming to be her daughter's father. When he was confronted with the fact he was not the girl's father, he then said he was there to pick up a different girl.

It was discovered he did not have the permission of the second child's guardian to pick her up, either. He later was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing, Kelly Frederick testified.

"I realize this does not have anything to do with the issue of reducing recidivism, which is the goal of this bill, but a man tried taking two children from a school," said Wielechowski. "And one of the goals of this bill is to promote public safety."

Mike Miller, with the Alaska chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, told the committee his membership is concerned about the raising the amount of damages to $1,000 in order for a crime to be considered a Class C felony.

"$500 is a lot of money to us," he said. "Our membership is not comfortable about doubling it."

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