Violent crime sees 7% increase in 2017
Violent crime throughout the state continues to rise, according to newly released data – something that does not surprise those on the front lines of public safety.
New crime numbers from the Department of Public safety shows last year, violent crime rose 6 percent statewide but reached 7 percent when calculated per 100,000 residents. Overall violent crime hit 35 percent since 2013, slipping slightly to 34 percent per 100,000 residents.
Additionally, property crime offenses rose 5 percent last year and 23 percent since 2013.
Overall crime increased six percent and rose 26 percent from five years ago.
Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth and Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan say the increase comes as no surprise.
The say depleted resources during an on-going state budget crisis has collided with a growing opioid epidemic.
“This is both a public health issue as well as a public safety issue,” she said. “Those two things go hand-in-hand. Our response to these numbers and to crime, especially because a lot of it is driven by the opioid epidemic has to go hand-in-hand.”
Lindemuth said the Department of Law is still trying to recover from losing 22 prosecutor positions several years ago.
The Legislature approved replacing five positions this year; Lindemuth said she would another five next year.
“It’s one of those things where if I could I would add for 22 all at once, but rebuilding takes time,” Lindemuth said. “You can’t keep the same quality of prosecutor and add too many at the same time, so it’s one of those things where we are rebuilding over time.”
Monegan said the state’s lack of resources carries over to the street. He said the department lost about 6 percent of funding in recent years, equally as many as 40 troopers. Currently, 47 are part of a new recruit class being trained.
“We are suffering from a lack of police officers in this state,” he said. “Alaska is lagging significantly behind the national average of sworn officers per 1,000 people.”
Lindemuth and Monegan on Friday will join a crime panel hosted by U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center.
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