Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Emergency Funding to Address Public Safety Crisis in Rural Alaska
Justice Department Authorizes More than $10 Million in Immediate Funding to Support Police in Alaska Native Villages and Additional Resources to Support Child Advocacy Centers in Rural Hubs, Expanding Prosecution Resources and Project Safe Neighborhoods Crime Reduction Measures
Attorney General William P. Barr declared a law enforcement emergency in rural Alaska under the Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Program today, making $6 million immediately available to the state of Alaska for critical law enforcement needs of Alaska Native villages. Recognizing that Alaska has the highest per capita crime rate in the country and the unique circumstances of Alaska’s geographical and jurisdictional landscape, the Attorney General authorized additional funding and several long-term measures to support village public safety and victim services.
The $6 million in emergency funding from the Office of Justice Program’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (OJP-BJA) will go toward hiring, equipping, and training Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs), Village Police Officers (VPOs), and Tribal Police Officers (TPOs) working in rural Alaska, as well as for mobile detention facilities.
In addition, the Department of Justice Office on Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) will award $4.5 million in funding for 20 officer positions, along with equipment and training, to Alaska Native grantees by the end of July.
The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and the Office on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) will support Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC) in rural Alaska’s major hubs, which provide wrap-around services, forensic interviews, and medical exams for child victims. OVC and OJJDP have identified up to $14 million in available funding for CACs in Alaska and the lower 48 states.
“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,” said Attorney General Barr. “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. Today, I am also directing each component and law enforcement agency of the Justice Department to submit plans within the next 30 days to further support federal, state, and tribal public safety efforts in rural Alaska. Lives depend on it, and we are committed to seeing a change in this unacceptable, daily reality for Alaska Native people.”
The Attorney General also announced a Rural Alaska Violent Crime Reduction Working Group, led by U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder. The Working Group will look for ways to build the capacity of federal, state, and tribal law enforcement in rural Alaska and its work will have a particular emphasis on crimes of domestic violence and crimes against children. BJA is also making an additional $162,000 available to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to establish an additional Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) target site encompassing rural Alaska.
Alaska is home to some of the most remote communities in all of America. This geographic isolation contributes to law enforcement problems not seen anywhere else in our Nation. According to one estimate, one-third of Alaskan villages have no local law enforcement personnel at all. According to a 2016 study funded by the National Institute of Justice, more than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native adults have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime, and more than half of all American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence from an intimate partner. The lack of law enforcement resources results in a high violent crime rate, especially in Alaska Native communities.
Additional near-term measures by Department of Justice components include:
- The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) will issue an award for sexual assault training and technical assistance in Alaska, including training community health aides in Alaska Native villages to perform sexual assault forensic exams and training for victim advocates. The project will include community sexual assault training, which will address coordinated responses to sexual assault across the community. This award will also train village-based victim advocates to accompany victims throughout the process, including prosecution, as appropriate.
- OVC is extending their application deadline for the Crime Victim Fund tribal set-aside solicitation (part of the $167 million available to tribes for victim services in FY 2019) to Aug. 16, 2019. This money may be used to fund direct services and advocacy, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis services, children advocacy programs, and elder abuse programs.
- BJA is extending their application deadline to July 15, 2019, for programs that target mental health/drug addiction, reentry initiatives, and community crime reduction.
- The COPS Office has two grant programs that it will reopen to afford Alaska the opportunity to apply:
- The Anti-Methamphetamine Program (CAMP) is open to state law enforcement agencies with multijurisdictional reach and interdisciplinary team (e.g., task force) structures, in states with high seizures of precursor chemicals, finished methamphetamine, laboratories, and laboratory dump seizures.
- The COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) Program is open to state law enforcement agencies with multi-jurisdictional reach and interdisciplinary team (e.g., task force) structures, in states with high per capita rates of primary treatment admissions.
As the Department develops a comprehensive response to public safety issues in Alaska, Attorney General Barr expressed his commitment to working closely with American Indian and Alaska Native leadership as well as Congressional and state representatives to ensure Departmental solutions are practical and effective. The Attorney General will also travel to an Indian country location in the lower 48 states in the coming months, recognizing the significant public safety challenges that persist for many Native American communities.
“I want to be sure that the support this Department offers to Alaska Native communities will support solutions identified by the communities themselves,” said Attorney General Barr. “The only way for us to provide effective support is to work in partnership with others. This is true in Alaska and throughout Indian country.”
In a memo to all Justice Department component leaders, the Attorney General directed every component and law enforcement agency to submit a plan in the next 30 days to further support these efforts in Alaska, focusing in particular on the following goals:
- Increasing the federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement presence in Alaska and ways to provide more prosecutorial resources for the criminal cases that will result from increased law enforcement presence;
- Reducing violent crime, especially gun violence;
- Decreasing sexual assaults of women and children;
- Providing better immediate and long-term services to victims of crime;
- Cutting off supplies of methamphetamines, opioids, and other illegal drugs;
- Addressing the problem of alcohol abuse and its role in violent crime and crimes against children;
- Increasing addiction prevention and treatment services to those struggling with addictions to drugs and alcohol;
- Providing adequate detention facilities in remote locations; and,
- Incorporating technology into law enforcement efforts to improve response times and decrease travel costs for victims and witnesses.