Gangs blamed for Alaska crime spike

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2005

ANCHORAGE - An increase in violent crime in Alaska is largely due to aggravated assaults involving gangs in Anchorage, according to law enforcement officials.

Violent crime in the state increased last year, continuing a steady upswing that began in the 1990s, according to FBI statistics.

The hike comes even though murder, rape and robbery are down for the state.

Brad Myrstol, research associate at the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center, said it is important to consider long-term trends when looking at the FBI report. "Crime has been at all-time lows and really (dropped) in the 1990s," he said. Since then, he said, it has been increasing.

The report said the overall violent crime rate increased 6 percent in 2004 from 2003, putting Alaska's rate well above national averages, which are declining. Statistically, for every 100,000 people in Alaska, there are 634 victims of violent crime. The U.S. average is 465.

Much of the increase is influenced by Anchorage, the state's largest city with nearly half the state's population.

According to the FBI report, the city and the surrounding Matanuska-Susitna area - reported as one geographical area - had a 24 percent increase in violent crime. The Anchorage Police Department, however, says the real number is closer to 7 percent because of a computer glitch resulting in inaccurate numbers going to the federal agency for its annual report.

But even with the adjustment, the city and Mat-Su's rate of violent crime per 100,000 residents remains significantly above the national average. It would be somewhere around 730, Anchorage police spokesman Lt. Paul Honeman said.

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