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Kotzebue leads Arctic in reported crimes for 2016

September 15th, 2017 | Shady Grove Oliver, The Arctic Sounder Print this article   Email this article  

The Kotzebue area has the highest reported crime rate in the Arctic, according to the most recent statewide numbers included in the 2016 Uniform Crime Report for Alaska.

It's important to note that the numbers only reflect reported crimes and not necessarily all crimes actually committed, meaning the numbers come from the crimes reported by individuals to law enforcement and the crimes law enforcement agencies then reported to the state Department of Public Safety.

Numbers have shown certain types of crimes, like rape, often go unreported to law enforcement. Additionally, locals say sometimes crimes in outlying villages are handled between individuals without law enforcement intervention, and therefore may go unreported.

"The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) developed this methodology for crime reporting in response to the need for national crime statistics," the report stated. "The data provides the information necessary to gain a basic understanding of the nature and scope of the nation's crime problem."

The report noted the submission of departments' crime data is required by Alaska statute. For the last two-and-a-half decades, the Department of Public Safety has been overseeing the program.

"The Criminal Records and Identification Bureau, located within the Division of Statewide Services, is responsible for collecting, tabulating, reporting and publishing the UCR data provided by state and local law enforcement agencies," stated the report. "The submitting agencies retain responsibility for the accuracy of their data, and DPS conducts biennial audits with each agency to ensure data is collected and reported in accordance with the national UCR program guidelines."

The Kotzebue Police Department, North Slope Borough Police Department and Alaska State Troopers — which handles law enforcement within the Northwest Arctic Borough — all contributed information to the report.

Information from the troopers was not broken down by area, so there weren't numbers specific to the Northwest borough, just to the city of Kotzebue from its own local department.

Kotzebue police reported a total of 814 violent crimes and property crimes in 2016, of which 142 were determined to be unfounded, for a total of 672 actual crimes.

Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery, assault and human trafficking, while property crimes encapsulate burglary, larceny, vehicle theft and arson.

The North Slope Borough Police Department reported a total of 421 crimes, of which 11 were unfounded, for a total of 410 actual violent or property crimes.

In contrast, the Northwest's nearest neighbor, Nome, reported a total of 232 actual crimes, or a third of Kotzebue's, for a comparable population size.

Kotzebue reported one murder or non-negligent manslaughter for the year, along with 26 rapes and two rape attempts. More rapes and attempts were reported to officers, but were determined to be unfounded. As a point of comparison, Nome reported no murders and one rape. Bethel reported about 10 more rapes than Kotzebue for about double the population.

There were a total of 433 actual assaults reported in the town, four robberies, 41 burglaries, 124 thefts and 41 vehicle thefts.

In total, the thefts in Kotzebue amounted to $326,602, which pales in comparison to the $1.1 million reported on the North Slope.

The Slope's police department reported 10 rapes and one attempted rape in 2016.

On the North Slope, there were also five robberies, 288 assaults, 36 burglaries, 50 thefts and 20 motor vehicle thefts.

North Slope police did not report any murders in 2016. However, as the Sounder previously reported, at least one person was criminally charged with murder following an incident that happened in Utqiaġvik last year. North Slope police could not be contacted by deadline and the state Department of Public Safety did not return requests for comment on this by deadline.

The North Slope Borough has one of the largest police forces in the state, with a total of 47 officers and 27 civilian employees, for a total of 74 people. That's third only to Anchorage and Juneau. It's also one of the only borough-based departments, as many communities have city police with troopers handling the outlying areas.

Kotzebue police had a total of 19 employees last year with 11 officers and eight civilians, which is exactly the same number as the Bethel, Dillingham and Valdez departments, slightly larger than Nome, and slightly smaller than Homer.

The entire report can be found at


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