Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

Firearms mortality by state

March 26, 2021

In 2020, 44,000 Americans died by firearm in the U.S. — almost 20,000 by murder or accident, and 24,000 by suicide. This short column presents data on death by firearms by state for the previous year, 2019. Two states, Alaska and Mississippi, had firearms mortality rates 7 times higher than the state with the lowest rate, Massachusetts. Besides Alaska and Mississippi, other states with rates above 20 per 100,000 population were Alabama, Louisiana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Missouri. Along with Massachusetts, states with fewer than 5 per 100,000 were Hawaii, New Jersey, and New York.

Meth and OIS in Colorado

February 7, 2020

These two Public Radio segments (Part 1 and Part 2) discuss the connection between methamphetamine abuse and police use of force in Colorado. For the period 2014-2019 the state had the nation’s 5th highest rate of fatal shootings by police, trailing only Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. During that period, 44% of the deceased suspects had meth in their system, according to autopsies, far higher than for any other substance. Experts say that heavy meth use leads to paranoia and delusions and “when people are using this drug, they’re significantly more likely to act out in a violent or hostile manner.” They also tend to be unfazed by less-lethal responses such as pepper spray and Tasers.

Fixing VPSO in Alaska

January 29, 2020

Alaska created the Village Public Safety Officer program 40 years ago as a way to provide police, fire, and EMS services in remote rural villages. In recent years the program has fallen on hard times with fewer than half the number of officers from just 8 years ago, leaving many villages unserved. This article reports the state legislature is now considering a number of recommendations to reinvigorate the program.

5 facts about crime in the U.S.

October 21, 2019

A useful synopsis of crime in the U.S. as of 2018 is available here from the Pew Research Center. Violent and property crime are down dramatically over the last 25 years, although these gains are not always recognized by the public. Crime rates vary substantially around the country — Alaska and New Mexico have violent crime rates 4 times higher than Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Threatening to commit mass shootings

September 3, 2019

This article reports over 40 people arrested around the country over the last month for threatening to commit mass shootings or bombings, most after tips from the public. Common themes included right-wing ideology and threats against schools, Walmarts, and Planned Parenthood. The nature of the cases ranged from “vague social media threats from juveniles that set parents on edge to well-developed plots from people who had access to weapons and appeared to authorities to have been planning a mass murder.”

Crises in Alaska

July 22, 2019

This article reports dozens of police officers in Alaska have criminal records, including one who is a registered sex offender, and one town where all 7 current officers have pleaded guilty to domestic violence within the last decade. The article documents the challenges faced in the state’s poor, extremely remote villages. Pay is low, applicants are few; according to a village manager, “We can’t find anybody else without a criminal background.” Federal and state officials have promised help, but at the same time the state faces a severe budget shortfall.

Murder clearance rates have actually improved — with one big exception

January 26, 2019

This article analyzes city clearance rates for murders and shootings. One key finding is a drop from 65% to 42% since the 1980s in the clearance rate for black and Hispanic victims killed by guns — aside from this category, murder clearance rates have actually improved. Also, non-firearm homicides, which are more likely to yield DNA and other suspect evidence, are solved at higher rates regardless of victim characteristics. Solve rates for non-fatal shootings vary widely but tend to be well below those for murder, at least in part due to overwhelming caseloads.

The only cop in town

October 24, 2018

The U.S. has 2,000 or so 1-officer police departments. This photo-essay highlights “the only cop in town” in 3 such agencies located in Delaware, Kansas, and Alaska, along with brief audio clips. One common theme for the chiefs is that they know their residents, and the residents know them, which has its pros and cons. One comments “You know everybody, and you know how they are. You’re seeing them at their worst, but you know how they are at their best too.”

Really rural

September 18, 2018

This public radio segment reports on the difficult challenges facing Village Public Safety Officers in Alaska. Typically local residents with little training, VPSOs often work alone in extremely isolated villages that suffer high rates of suicide and substance abuse, and they frequently have to take action against friends and family members. To make matters worse, state funding for basic services, including policing, has been reduced.

Gun death rates

March 26, 2018

This column compares the 50 states on gun death rates, noting that nationally, over half are suicides while 37% are homicides. Alaska, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma have the highest gun death rates, all at least 5 times higher than Massachusetts, which has the lowest rate. Other states with the lowest rates are New York, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.