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2020 Anchorage Homicide Rate Drops by Half: Police Credits Pandemic Impact

Anchorage Bucks National Trend with Decrease in Homicide Rate

Homicide Rates Drop Amidst National Increase

According to Anchorage Daily News, while homicide rates rose across the country in 2020 Anchorage experienced a notable decline. In addition to three males being shot and murdered by police that year saw 18 homicide deaths. This amount is approximately half of the total for 2019 which was practically a record for the city.

READ ALSO: 13.46% Rise In Cleveland Murder Rate: Why This City’s Homicide Rate Bucks The National Trend

(PHOTO: Alaska Tour & Travel)

Impact of Pandemic on Crime Trends

Throughout 2020 most types of crime fell in Anchorage. This was an unusual year due to the pandemic which led to business closures, high unemployment and concerns about hospital capacity. Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll said it’s unclear if the drop in crime was directly linked to these unique circumstances.

Factors Behind Anchorage‘s Unique Crime Pattern

Chief Doll mentioned that the police had worked hard to prevent violent crime but he also noted that Alaska often differs from the rest of the country. Unlike many cities Anchorage did not see a rise in homicides and assaults in 2020.

Speculations on Social Behavior Changes

Sgt. Bianca Cross of the homicide unit suggested that reduced socializing and drinking due to the pandemic might have played a role in the drop in violence. Bars being closed for parts of the year could have influenced this change though this is just a guess.

Police Operations During the Pandemic

In some cities increased violence was partly due to police staffing issues caused by COVID-19. However, the Anchorage police were mostly unaffected by the virus. Doll said there were fewer reports of violence including shootings but exact data was not available.

Broad Decrease in Non-Violent Crime

Other crimes such as theft, burglary, vandalism and sexual assault also decreased in Anchorage in 2020. Nationally, non-violent crime dropped as well. However, domestic violence shelters and hotlines in Anchorage saw a significant rise in people seeking help.

Rise in Domestic Violence Reports

Chief Doll acknowledged that the increase in calls to crisis centers might not be reflected in reported assaults. He noted that it can be hard for domestic violence victims to seek help if they can’t get away from their abusers.

Insights into Homicide Rate of 2020

2020 had a high number of homicide cases involving narcotics or domestic abuse according to Cross. Near their houses the majority of victims met their murderers. The victims were between the ages of 5 and 83. By year’s end four homicide cases remained unresolved.

Historical Context and Recent Trends

The lowest number of homicides in the last 15 years in Anchorage was 12 in 2008. Recent years saw higher numbers with a record 37 homicides in 2017. In 2019 there were 34 homicides. In 2020 there were three months with no homicides allowing detectives to focus on open cases.

Establishment of Cold Case Unit

A cold case unit was established at the end of 2020 to review unsolved crimes. Cross said this unit is important for reexamining old evidence and providing answers to families. Although time-consuming the unit’s work is seen as valuable.

Highlighting Notable Homicide Rate

Some notable homicide rate in 2020 included the fatal stabbing of 71-year-old Rose Warren in March and the shooting of 27-year-old Ionatana Toa in April. Other victims included 66-year-old Donald Jordan shot on the Fourth of July and 5-year-old boy killed in November.

Police Involved Shootings and Public Response

In 2020 Anchorage police officers were involved in three fatal shootings the same number as the previous year. These incidents included the shooting of 16-year-old Daelyn Polu during a traffic stop in February and a standoff in October that ended in the death of Keith Beecroft.

Community Response and Police Relations

The year 2020 saw nationwide protests against police brutality after George Floyd’s death. In Anchorage protests were peaceful. Chief Doll praised both the protesters and police. The department is now seeking more community input and working on a technology overhaul including body cameras for officers.

Future Plans and Strategic Goals

Looking ahead to 2021 Chief Doll hopes to analyze what led to the drop in crime and continue those practices. The city has also created a mental health first responders team to reduce the burden on police. Doll said he is looking forward to a better year ahead as more people get vaccinated and life returns to normal.

READ ALSO: Minneapolis Crime Rate Study As Of 2024

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