Life in “The Last Frontier” may be harsher than a lot of Americans realize.
Attorney General William Barr on Friday declared a public-safety emergency in Alaska so the Justice Department could allocate more than $10 million toward fighting violent crime in some of the state’s rural communities.
In many areas, getting timely law enforcement responses to sexual assaults, child abuse and other violent crimes can be difficult.
A 2013 federal report said that at least 75 Alaska Native communities had no law enforcement officers. Tribes have lacked authority to establish police forces since the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act took effect, Reuters reported.
Because of Alaska’s immense size (663,268 square miles) it can sometimes take hours for state troopers to reach a village from which a crime is reported.
Tribal leaders have told authorities that victims of sexual assault sometimes need to take boats or planes to reach medical facilities in more populated areas, the Associated Press reported.
Barr visited Alaska in late May to get a sense of the problems Alaskans have been dealing with.
“In May, when I visited Alaska, I witnessed firsthand the complex, unique, and dire law enforcement challenges the state of Alaska and its remote Alaska Native communities are facing,” Barr said in a Justice Department statement. “With this emergency declaration, I am directing resources where they are needed most and needed immediately, to support the local law enforcement response in Alaska Native communities, whose people are dealing with extremely high rates of violence.”
Barr and other officials visited the communities of Galena, Bethel and Napaskiak on May 31, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Alaskan members of Congress said they were pleased by the attention Barr was directing toward their state.
U.S. Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican who lives in Fort Yukon, a small community above the Arctic Circle, said he was glad Barr released the money.
"I'm cautioning people, though, because money just doesn't solve the problem," the 86-year-old Young said Friday. "There should be recognition that this problem can only be solved by support by the communities themselves."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.