Anchorage Daily News


Anchorage Daily News is one of the 2018 winners of the Journalism 360 Challenge. See all the winners.


  • Kyle Hopkins, Special Projects Editor
  • David Hulen, Editor
  • Anne Raup, Photo Editor
  • Loren Holmes, Photographer and Drone Pilot
  • Marc Lester, Photographer

Project Description

The neighborhoods with the highest rates of sexual assault, gun deaths and suicide in America aren’t in inner cities. They are hidden away in tiny, remote Alaska villages that can only be reached by plane or boat. Despite soaring crime rates, more than 70 of these communities must survive alone — without local police protection. The nearest Alaska State Troopers are a flight away, weather permitting.

Imagine spending a day in one of these communities, talking to residents about the dangers they face and their hopes for change. Touring jail cells that are falling down from neglect and underfunding. Hearing from untrained volunteers who have had to rescue friends and family from suicide attempts and armed standoffs. That is what our project proposes to do: To place users in a situation that they did not know existed — modern American towns without cops — and make them care by showing, not telling, the story.

The state of Alaska and the federal government have failed to protect the thousands of Alaskans who live in these towns and villages despite cries from Alaska Native rights groups that say the lack of law enforcement is unconstitutional and discriminatory. In the villages that do have local police, the Anchorage Daily News has found that felons and even sex offenders are sometimes hired to make arrests. We will visit two villages — one with no police at all — and create a 360-degree video and audio package.

Among the shots:

Inside the rumbling cockpit of a small plane that crosses the frozen tundra to reach the village — the only way emergency responders can arrive to help.

Drone images from high above the village, with text overlays to relay some basic information to the viewer about the problems related to lack of police and the rich history of the community.

On the back of a snowmobile riding through town, with text appearing on home after home showing where homicides and shootings have occurred in recent years but no police were available to help. Audio would be interviews with local residents.

The interior of plywood jail cells an where volunteers have used pocket knives to cut the noose on people attempting suicide or interrupted sexual assaults.

Inside the homes of village elders, frying sheefish or boiling seal meat, who can describe the communities’ forced transition from subsistence hunting and fishing lifestyles to cash-based economies.

That cultural upheaval has left local governments with the burden of hiring police but no tax base with which to do so. The 360-degree video will be the centerpiece of an online package that continues the Anchorage Daily News’ efforts to explore a two-tiered system of criminal justice in Alaska.