Alaska needs more village public safety officers, forensic nurses, and better tracking for sexual assaults to help combat its status as the rape capital of the U.S., says a state senate committee study reported by the Anchorage Daily News. The report calls the current sex assault data tracking system “inadequate at best” for a state with a sex assault report rate of more than 2 1/2 times the national average.
The numbers tracked in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report don’t include child or male victims, not to mention that 41 Alaska police departments — mostly smaller, rural ones — failed to report data in 2007 despite being required to do so. The report urges the legislature to require the Department of Public Safety to collect uniform information on sex assaults and suggests lawmakers commission a victim survey to better understand the scope of the problem. In addition, the state should hire more village public safety officers, nurses, and child-pornography investigators, the report concludes. “We have a serious problem here in the state,” said state Sen. Hollis French, committee chairman. of the Judiciary Committee. “Just focusing on the people that we’ve convicted isn’t getting at the problem. … What we heard loud and clear was that there are simple ways to build stronger cases, to produce more viable prosecutions against the many, many cases that are happening out there.”