Violent crime statewide reached a five-year high last year, even as the number of murders hit its lowest since 2014, according to state and federal data released Monday.

Murder across Alaska fell from 62 to 47 in one year, but reported rapes rose just over 11%, according to reports by the Department of Public Safety and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which use the same data.

The reports feature crime data reported from 32 law enforcement agencies, which represent 95.5% of Alaska’s population, according to DPS.

Even with the total offense number dropping 5%, violent crime still spiked 3% to slightly more than 6,500 offenses in 2018.

Still, the DPS report warns against quickly drawing conclusions from the data when comparing year-over-year data.

“All facts are important to consider when reviewing the fluctuations in the crime index and the rate variances between 2017 and 2018,” the report titled Crime in Alaska 2018 noted. “Caution should be exercised when comparing data from year to year and making conclusions.”

According to the DPS analysis: Murder accounted for less than 1% of all violent crimes; rape registered slightly more than 18% while aggravated assault was responsible for more than 67% of  those crimes.

The analysis also showed a violent crime occurred every hour last year; property crime took place every 21 minutes; a murder happened every seven days while a rape occurred every seven hours.

Alaska crime took on a high profile during last year’s election cycle. Many residents called on lawmakers to make significant changes to existing crime statutes.

This year, the Legislature and Gov. Mike Dunleavy spent nearly six months advancing a sweeping crime bill Dunleavy signed in July.

Under House Bill 49, lawmakers didn’t promise an instant crime drop but said the legislation still takes a tough-on-crime approach.

They said it enables law enforcement officers, judges and prosecutors to hold criminals more accountable for their actions and keep them off the streets longer.

In an effort to rewrite a 3-year-old bill whose name — SB91 — carried a derisive tone, the new law addressed the following:

  • Judges will no longer be required to use a highly controversial pre-trial assessment tool when laying out conditions such as bail. The changes afford judges more discretion.
  • Raising sentencing ranges for felonies closer to pre-SB91 levels. Someone convicted of a class A felony, such as arson, faces between four to seven years.
  • Reverting to drug sentencing prior to SB91. In other words, dealing any amount of heroin would be a class A felony offense. Delivery, even with no money exchanged, is still considered dealing.
  • Certain drug possession convictions for offenses without jail time will be treated as a misdemeanor punishable up to one year in jail. A second offense within 10 years, however, will be considered a class C felony.
  • Prosecutors can aggregate value of stolen goods covering several charges within a six-month period and charge someone with a felony. This is designed hold serial thieves accountable at the highest possible level.
  • New laws protecting children and adults from indecent viewing, a surreptitious act either through production of photos and video, or acting as a Peeping Tom. Convictions for producing photos with children or adults would be considered a registrable sex offense.
  • A new crime is established to fight the soaring rates of auto theft: possession of motor vehicle theft tools. To obtain a conviction, prosecutors would have to prove a person possess tools commonly used in theft and has shown an intent to steal.

For more information on crime in Alaska, view the full report online.

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