"The homicide rate in Anchorage has always run between 12 and 24," that city's police chief from 2010 to 2015 tells the Alaska Dispatch News. "That was sort of the rule of thumb. We rarely did better than 12. And we rarely did worse than twice that." But the state's most populous city, totaling 300,000 residents, has tallied 25 so far this year, putting it on track to beat its worst year on record, 29 in 1995. Particularly unsettling to some residents is that 15 people have been killed since late June and nine of the total 25 remain unsolved murders where bodies were mainly found outdoors on trails in the middle of the night. But most murders, criminologists say, involve domestic violence, gang violence, or an argument gone bad—violence between strangers is the exception, not the rule.
"It's terrifying," Jennifer Hazen, a longtime resident who lives near Valley of the Moon Park, where two people were found dead early Sunday, tells the AP. Police have issued a broad warning that people be "extra aware" of their surroundings and "make sure you travel with several friends" if out late at night, though they won't speculate as to whether there is a serial killer on the loose or explain why the FBI is now assisting. Police have confirmed that three of the nine outdoor homicide victims were found alone, while the other six were found in three pairs; two of the victims were shot, though the police have not revealed how the other seven were killed. "We seek singular causation—OK, what's the answer?" one expert says of the overall spike in murders. "The truth is probably there's a constellation of answers." (The FBI was also brought in to investigate this bizarre death in Anchorage.)