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Barr Declares Emergency Over Violence in Alaska

New funding will add police officers in rural areas
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2019 12:05 PM CDT
An Alaska state troopers' SUV is parked outside a store. These police cars patrol Alaska, particularly rural areas without a police force.   (Getty/Melissa Kopka)
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(Newser) – The Trump administration has declared a public-safety emergency in rural Alaska. US Attorney General William Barr, who visited Alaska last month, made the announcement, Reuters reports. “I witnessed firsthand the complex, unique, and dire law enforcement challenges the State of Alaska and its remote Alaska Native communities are facing," he said in a statement Friday. Barr promised $10.5 million to the effort to combat some of the nation's highest rates of sexual assault, child abuse, and other violent crimes. While in Alaska, Barr was told of the insufficient number of police officers there; about one-third of Alaska Native villages lack local law enforcement services, according to the US Department of Justice.

Such emergency declarations aren't made often, per the Washington Post. They allow the Justice Department to dedicate funding to help with situations that could "become of serious or epidemic proportions." About $6 million of the funding will pay for mobile detention facilities and hiring, training and equipping police officers for villages. Another $4.5 million will add 20 officers through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. A Justice Department official said some villages have no roads and no law enforcement. More than half of the women in Alaska are subject to domestic violence or sexual assault, she said, and difficulty summoning help. "Because of the geography," she said, "your state trooper may be up to two days away from being able to get in." (Read more Alaska stories.)

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