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Years later, an inaccurate homicide record in Alaska’s largest city has been corrected

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 6:53 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In Anchorage, 2017 is known to be the city’s deadliest year on record. While that hasn’t changed, the Anchorage Police Department previously reported 37 people died in homicides that year then earlier this month, the department presented a different number during a public meeting.

APD Chief Justin Doll shared new crime data for Anchorage with members of the Anchorage Assembly Public Safety Committee during a meeting on Feb. 3, displaying a graphic that showed 36 homicide victims in 2017.

In an email to Alaska’s News Source in December 2018, APD Communications Director MJ Thim wrote, “the 2017 rate is 37,” and provided a corresponding list.

After the meeting this month, Alaska’s News Source reached out to the department to clarify the numbers.

Thim explained that the department had erroneously added a woman who was shot in December 2017 to the homicide victim list for that year, but the woman was not killed. The suspect in the case is charged with attempted murder.

He described the mistake as a clerical error, citing an issue with the program the department uses to track crime data.

In a later email, Thim wrote, “After we released our 2020 3rd quarter homicide data, we found another issue with our data management system. As you know, an effort is underway for the Anchorage Police Department to build a better data management system as well as data infrastructure system [...] For the homicide data discrepancies, we identified the issue and added the fix to the on-going improvement process as we continue to work with the Assembly for a data systems upgrade.”

Thim noted that the department released the accurate data to the public this month without an explanation.

“We should have made it clear as to why the numbers had changed and could continue to change,” he wrote. “We apologize for the oversight as we understand accuracy is of the utmost importance. Thank you for your due diligence and following up!”

APD identified additional homicide data errors to Alaska’s News Source for other years too. According to Thim, the 2018 death of a juvenile was mistakenly classified as a death investigation rather than a homicide. For 2019, the death of Veronica Abouchuk was mistakenly classified as a missing persons case instead of a homicide.

“We do our best to provide the best data that we have available at any given time,” Thim wrote. “Crime data constantly changes as investigations and circumstances change and APD is committed to providing the most up to date information possible.”

According to APD, the latest homicide victim data for the city shows 36 people died in homicides in 2017, 30 people died in homicides in 2018, 35 people died in homicides in 2019 and 18 people died in homicides in Anchorage in 2020.

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