Across Alaska, crime is up.
That’s according to data released today by the Department of Public Safety comparing 2017 to 2016. In its Uniform Crime Report, the department said that statewide, crime rose by 6 percent last year.
It’s part of a longer-term increase in Alaska crime. The rate of violent crimes like murder, rape, robbery and assault increased by 34 percent from 2013 to 2017. Property crime rates grew, too, by 22 percent in the same period.
More violent crime in urban areas
During a press conference today, Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan took questions from reporters. Asked if the report identified any particular areas where violent crime was increasing most dramatically, Monegan pointed to Alaska’s more densely populated communities.
“We’ve actually seen a lot more activity in the urban area in regards to some of the violence that kind of related to related to gangs,” Monegan said.
That lines up with the Department of Law’s data, too. According to the department, felony prosecutions last year went up mainly in urban hubs and western Alaska.
Drug epidemic leads to more violent crimes
Commissioner Monegan said Alaska’s designation as a “high-intensity drug-trafficking” area by federal officials means it will receive an injection of funds to help combat the ongoing opioid crisis.
“Understanding that a lot of the violent crime is being driven by the drug epidemic itself,” Monegan said. “So, with the high intensity drug trafficking money that we’re gonna be receiving shortly, that is going to be a concerted effort to try to address the gangs, address the drugs, and we should see a — hopefully — a reduction in violent crime.”
Thirty-two police agencies from around Alaska submitted data for 2017. The Uniform Crime Reporting data is submitted to the FBI as part of a nationwide effort to collect national crime statistics.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Police in Northern Quebec seize vodka bottles, 94% alcohol, CBC News
Finland: Police in Northern Finland overstretched, says retiring officer, YLE News
Sweden: Cross-border Nordic policing would better serve Arctic: politician, Radio Sweden
United States: Police officers in Alaska villages hired despite criminal record: report, Alaska Public Media