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Crime & Courts

Native and black individuals make up a disproportionate number of Alaska homicide victims

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: May 21, 2020
  • Published May 20, 2020

Anchorage police crime scene investigators process the scene of a fatal shooting at 15th Avenue and E Street, Sept. 13, 2016. (Loren Holmes / ADN archive)

A new analysis of Alaska homicide records has found that Alaska Natives and blacks are dying at a higher rate than other demographic groups.

The Alaska Justice Information Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage released the findings Wednesday in a 68-page report. Researchers reviewed data from 1,709 homicides investigated by Alaska State Troopers and police departments across the state between 1976 and 2016.

Director Brad Myrstol said the justice center launched the project a year ago as the call for more information about missing and murdered indigenous women gained momentum in Alaska and across the country. A review of Alaska homicide data had been needed for some time, he said.

African American males were about 3.5 times more likely to be the victim of homicide compared to overall population numbers during the study period. Alaska Native males were 2.5 times more likely to be victims compared to population numbers, he said.

Alaska Native women and girls were about 1.3 times more likely to be victims of a killing, he said, while white women and girls were 2.5 times less likely to be a homicide victim when compared to their overall percentage of the state population.

“It’s not just race. It’s not just sex. But those two things converge together to help us understand homicide victimization risk,” Myrstol said.

Among the findings:

• More than 29% of homicide victims were Alaska Native, but Alaska Natives make up just 16% of the Alaska population.

• Black or African American Alaskans, who make up about 4% of the state population, were also over-represented among homicide victims, accounting for 10% of those killed.

• As in other states, the majority of Alaska homicide victims — seven out of 10 — were male.

• But the proportion of female victims killed by an intimate partner was about five times mthan for men across all racial groups. Alaska males were twice as likely as females to be killed by a stranger.

• Among Alaska Native females killed in homicides since 1976, about 55% were killed by a current or former intimate partner or a family member.

“Although female victims as a whole were under-represented in homicide compared to their population, combining race and sex revealed that American Indian or Alaska Native female victims and Black or African American female victims were over-represented in Alaska homicides,” the report found.

While much research remains to be done, Myrstol said, the justice center hopes the study will provide a baseline of information for Alaskans and policymakers looking for ways to reduce the number of missing and murdered Native women.

The report, written by Andrew Gonzalez, relied on information that Alaska law enforcement agencies provided to an FBI database called the Supplementary Homicide Report.

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