Inside Alaska’s Disturbing Local Law Enforcement “Crisis”

Sex offenders can outnumber cops seven to one

UIG via Getty Images

An investigation by ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News found that one in three communities in Alaska has no local law enforcement. “No state troopers to stop an active shooter, no village police officers to break up family fights,” according to the report, “not even untrained city or tribal cops to patrol the streets.” And areas with cops face their own dire challenges. In one village, sex offenders outnumber law enforcement seven to one.

Nearly all of these unprotected localities are Alaska Native, and they can be big enough to have a school and a post office. Rates of poverty, sexual assault and suicide are among the highest in the U.S. Remoteness exacerbates the situation. “Most can be reached only by plane, boat, all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile,” according to the report. It can take hours, even days for emergency help to arrive.

The absence of local police has left residents to improvise on their own, using duct-tape and locked doors to protect themselves while awaiting troopers. And Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy’s proposed state budget would cut local law enforcement by $3 million. “Public safety infrastructure and service in our region,” one official tells ProPublica, “is a crisis.”

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