Feds announce millions in emergency funds to fight violence in rural Alaska

U.S. Attorney William Barr met with tribal leaders in Bethel to discuss public safety concerns
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The United States Attorney General has announced more than $10 million in emergency funding to help improve what he calls a public safety crisis in rural Alaska. The funding was outlined in a memo released by the Department of Justice Friday morning to address what William Barr calls, “an unacceptable, daily reality for Alaska Native people.”

Immediately, $6 million will be available to the state for law enforcement in Alaska Native villages. That will help pay for more Village Public Safety Officers, Village Police Officers, Tribal Police officers, and help to fund mobile jails.

Another $4.5 million will be funded in grants by the end of July. That will come from the Department's Office on Community Oriented Policing Services and will fund the wages and training for 20 officer positions for Alaska Native groups.

To address the need for children’s advocacy centers, the Office on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention will get some funding to help support those centers in Alaska’s rural hubs, including for services like forensic interviews and medical exams for young victims of domestic and sexual violence. Those finances will be part of $14 million the two offices have allocated to be shared between Alaska and the Lower 48.

Meanwhile, the DoJ says a Rural Alaska Violent Crime Reduction working group will be led by U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder to identify more ways to strengthen the presence and effectiveness of tribal, state and federal law enforcement in the rural areas. The memo says that group will focus especially on domestic violence and crimes against children. Those efforts will also be bolstered with another $162,000 in funds to begin a Project Safe Neighborhoods target site covering rural Alaska.

The Department of Justice also shared some issues it plans to tackle in the near future:
• Providing training to equip staff to tend to female victims of sexual assault, and implement community training.
• An application extension for Crime Victim Funding for direct services including advocacy, shelters, child and elderly victims
• An application extension for programs that assist with mental health and substance abuse, including crime reduction and re-entry
• The availability of two programs, especially with Alaska in mind; the Anti-Methamphetamine Program and the Anti-Heroin Task Force

The U.S. Attorney General said in the memo, “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 is also calling on each component of the Department to submit its plans within the month that will further support these efforts' success.

The announcement follows a visit Barr made a month ago to Alaska which included meetings with tribal and state leaders in Anchorage and to places off the road system like Bethel and Galena.

Barr says he plans to travel to other locations in Indian country in the Lower 48, as he noted that the issues seen in Alaska are pervasive in those indigenous communities as well.

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