Alaska’s crime rates have grown through recent years, but results from the most recent FBI crime report show a decline in criminal activity in Alaska’s five safest cities.
SafeWise, a source for home security and safety news, used statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting program to rank cities in Alaska according to safety.
The ranking included 24 cities in the state but closely focused on the top five safest.
To identify the five safest cities, SafeWise analysts reviewed FBI crime report statistics from 2015 and state population data. All cities with fewer than 2,000 residents or those that failed to submit an annual crime report were not included in the evaluation.
Sarah Brown, community outreach manager at SafeWise says that the analysts that conduct the city-ranking research do so in a team effort to ensure the data is analyzed accurately.
“The way SafeWise analyzes our data is useful because it gives you a normalized number that is based simply on crime rate. People often dispute the number because some areas don’t rank high simply because of property crime, however, an increase in property crime leads to an increase in violent crime,” Brown said.
The ranking began with an analyzation of reported violent crimes, including assault, murder, rape and robbery — and property crimes, which include burglary, arson and theft in each city. SafeWise calculated the likelihood of these crimes occurring out of 1,000 citizens in each city.
Cordova was ranked the safest city in the state of Alaska. Next followed Unalaska, Haines, Wrangell and Sitka.
Based on FBI statistics, the crime rate in the top five cities is nearly half the national average — with 15 crimes reported per 1,000 residents.
According to SafeWise’s research, the city of Cordova had two violent crimes and seven property crimes reported per 1,000 people. Unalaska had two violent crimes and 11 property crimes.
Haines reportedly had three violent and nine property crimes, while Wrangell had 43 violent and 13 property crimes. The fifth safest city, Sitka, had just one violent crime and 16 property crimes reported per 1,000 citizens.
Mary Weaver, a senior at UAA who is originally from Sitka, shared how small and comfortable her hometown is, and that she is not surprised that it was ranked one of the safest cities in the state.
“Coming to Anchorage from Sitka for me, was a little bit of a culture shock. I always had to remind myself to lock my car, because Sitka is such a small town. When I moved up here, my mom would always yell at me for leaving my purse in the front seat… She would say that somebody will break your windows,” Weaver said. “For the most part, we’re a community that is pretty strong and safe.”
Although the data focused mainly on the top five safest, SafeWise ranked another 21 cities in the state.
Following the top five came the North Slope Borough, Palmer, Nome, Valdez, Seward, Petersburg, Homer, Ketchikan, Bethel, Dillingham, Fairbanks, Kodiak, Soldotna, Juneau, Kenai, Anchorage, North Pole, Wasilla and Kotzebue.
Ellen Carlson, a sophomore at UAA who commutes from Wasilla, was surprised to see her hometown ranked 23rd most dangerous out of 24 cities.
“I actually feel really safe in Wasilla, usually. I mean, the farther out in the boonies you get, the more concerned I am. But in Wasilla, I’m usually fine… People leave you alone and are decently friendly most of the time,” Carlson said. “I feel a lot less safe in Anchorage.”
Gov. Bill Walker signed a criminal justice reform bill in July of last year, to modify the state’s criminal justice system. Alaskan law’s are aiming to enhance public safety, curb corrections spending and reduce the state’s prison population.