In Anchorage, Alaska, there have been 15 homicides since June; most of them have occurred late at night, and nine took place along trails and isolated areas. In three cases, more than one person was killed.
At present, the strange rash of killings remains unsolved.
The mysterious deaths have become enough of a concern that officials with the Anchorage Police Department issued a statement, advising members of the community be careful while visiting parks and wooded areas in the community:
“A.P.D. wants to remind our citizens to be cautious when they are out during these hours, especially if they are in isolated areas like our parks, bike trails or unoccupied streets,” the Police Department wrote. “If you plan to be out late at night, make sure you travel with several friends and not alone.”
Naturally, the questions surrounding the as-yet unsolved deaths have led to speculation about a serial killer that may be operating in and around Anchorage. New York Times reported that, “Asked if investigators believe that a serial killer could be on the loose, a police spokeswoman, Jennifer Castro, said the police always try to determine if unsolved crimes are related.”
Simply put, law enforcement agencies may not be leaping to call these deaths the work of a serial killer yet, but certainly hope to understand any relationships that may be uncovered between them.
It was further reported that many people involved with programs like Anchorage’s Trail Watch program find the situation very unsettling. John McCleary, one of the program’s former coordinators, called the situation “so abnormal”, further noting that Anchorage no longer feels like the same city.
Alaska Dispatch News reported that Anchorage may soon “break the record for most homicides in one year.” Within the last few days, it was announced that the FBI is now also assisting with the homicides, though a spokeswoman refused to give details about the FBI’s involvement.
The average number of homicides in Anchorage is normally below 12 annually. With 15 deaths since June, and 25 total for 2016, the numbers are already more than double the annual average.
1995 remains the deadliest year on record, with 29 homicide victims reported for that year. Law enforcement agencies state, however, that the majority of the deaths that year could be attributed to gang violence, stemming from the illegal sale of drugs, as reported by the Anchorage Daily News at that time.
While police haven’t attributed the deaths in 2016 to drugs or gang-related violence, police in the city maintain that nothing appears to link the deaths to a serial killer at the present time either.
“Right now we’re having a lot of crimes,” said Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley in a recent press conference. “And I’m concerned, and I know the community is concerned.”
Tolley further noted that the majority of the victims were young people. “We’re seeing a trend here where half the victims are under the age of 21,” Tolley said, while loosely suggesting that some of the deaths could be related to drugs, alcohol, or more simply “things going too far.” Tolley also stated that mental health issues had been related to some of the deaths.
Whether 2016 goes on to set a new record for deadliest year is yet to be seen; however, plenty of questions remain about the current spike in homicides in the area, and whether their ultimate cause, and prevalence along trails and other isolated areas in the city, will be revealed to have been connected in some deeper way.