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Children play along the banks of the frozen Arctic Ocean in Browerville, Alaska. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Lawless

A third of Alaskan villages lack local police — and sex offenders are taking advantage

By WITW Staff on May 21, 2019

At least one in three Alaska villages has no local law enforcement—no state troopers, no village cops—and sexual assault runs rampant, according to a disturbing new investigation from the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica. Almost all of the communities are primarily Alaska Native.

Seventy of these lawless villages are large enough to have a school and a post office. Most can be reached only by plane, boat, all-terrain vehicle, or snowmobile, meaning emergency help can be hours, or days, away.

The unprotected villages that are unreachable by road have nearly four times as many sex offenders, per capita, than the national average, the report found.

Many of these villages are in western Alaska, where sex-crime rates are double the statewide average, according to the report. Alaska’s statewide rate is nearly three times the U.S. average.

In the village of Kiana, Annie Reed serves as the sole police officer. In her village, sex offenders outnumber her by seven-to-one. A 49-year-old grandmother, Reed has received just three weeks of law enforcement training. She handles crimes ranging from armed fights to home invasions to domestic violence, with no local backup.

She began working as a police officer about five years ago, when a relative said she would be good at the job. “She said I was a strong and outgoing person,” Reed says.

Rather than increasing recruitment for law enforcement, the report found, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has proposed a state budget that would cut $3 million in funding for vacant village police officer jobs. The cuts are part of a proposed $1.8 billion reduction in state spending for the cash-strapped state, according to the report.

Read the full story at ProPublica.

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