Village Public Safety Officer Turnover and Reported Violent Crime in Alaska Native Villages


  • Darryl S. Wood


Since its inception in the early 1980s as a response to high rates of accidental and intentional injury deaths in isolated Alaska Native villages, the Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) program has faced tremendously high levels of employment turnover. This attrition often results in villages being without a local police presence for weeks at a time. The impact of this lack of presence upon public safety in these villages was examined using records of offences reported to the Alaska State Troopers over the period 1998–2002. Differences in reported violent crime rates during the periods when a VPSO was present in a community were compared with the reported violent crime rates during periods of officer absence. There were no statistically significant differences in the reported rates of homicide or sexual assault when villages were or were not served by a VPSO. Reported felony assault rates were at least as high, if not higher, in villages without VPSO service as opposed to villages with VPSO service. Rates of reported misdemeanour assaults, contrary to expectations, were actually lower when villages were without VPSO service compared to when they had VPSO service. These results indicate that violent crime rates are partly a function of having someone to whom a crime might be reported rather than a result of any underlying criminal behaviour.






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