Crime & Courts

Alaska’s rate of violent crime continues to climb, new FBI data shows

Alaska saw the highest violent crime rate in five years in 2018, according to new crime data released Monday.

The state’s already high rate of sexual assault surged by 11% between 2017 and 2018 — nearly four times the national rate.

But property crime, and especially once-surging vehicle theft, appeared to be trending down.

The Department of Public Safety’s annual “Crime in Alaska” report uses data supplied by police departments and law enforcement agencies around the state. The FBI simultaneously released its Uniform Crime Report Monday, a national look at crime that uses the same data.

The data tracks the number of crimes reported to participating police departments representing 99.5% of Alaska’s population. A handful of small departments did not participate.

The report offers a broad look at crime in Alaska.

Among the most striking findings in the newly released data:


• A total of 1,100 rapes were reported in Alaska in 2018, as well as 88 attempted rates. The rate of 161.9 sexual assaults per 100,000 people has now reached nearly four times the national rate. That’s equivalent to a rape in Alaska about every seven hours.

• While the overall Alaska crime rate went down 4.6%, violent crimes increased 3.3%. The most common violent crime reported in Alaska was aggravated assault, followed by rape, according to the data.

• Property crime decreased. In particular, the vehicle theft rate, which had skyrocketed in recent years, went down 5.8% between 2017 and 2018. Reports of stolen vehicles still represent 12.9% of all crime reported in Alaska.

• Property crime makes up the majority of crime reported in Alaska, about 79% of overall crime. Violent crime makes up the other 21%.

• Alaska’s murder rate -- highly variable because of the relatively small numbers of offenses involved -- declined dramatically. There were 47 homicides in 2018, compared to 62 in 2017. Two-thirds of homicides involved a firearm.

• Alaska’s rate of sexual assault has dramatically increased over the past five years. The number of reported rapes has increased every year since 2014, and the rate of rape per 100,000 person population has increased by roughly one-third in the same timeframe.

[The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica are spending the year investigating sexual violence in Alaska. Have you experienced sexual violence in Alaska? Help us tell these stories.]

About 97% of people arrested for rape in 2018 were male. About 23% of those arrested for a sexual offense were juveniles, according to the data.

The surge in reports of rape tracks with what advocates around the state are seeing, said Keeley Olson, the executive director of the Anchorage nonprofit Standing Together Against Rape.

STAR provided “more services in fiscal year 2018 than in any year in the history of our program,” Olson.

She pointed to a 70% increase in office visits, a 20% increase in statewide crisis line calls and a “startling” uptick in calls for help with SART kits, used to collect evidence directly after a sexual assault report. At the same time, the number of individual clients — between 1,000 and 1,400 per year — has remained steady.

The numbers released Monday are shocking, Olson said. But it could be that more victims are seeking to report sexual assault to authorities than in the past, Olson said.

The UCR data counts the number of assaults reported to authorities.

“With all of the media attention to sexual assault in our state as well as the Me Too movement all happening, we have to take into consideration that people just have a growing expectation that they will be heard,” Olson said. “I only hope I’m right, that it is not more violence being incurred.”

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.