The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica series “Lawless,” a project of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network, is a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. Led by Anchorage Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins, the first-of-its-kind investigation uncovered a sexual assault crisis in rural Alaska and how it is compounded by a profound lack of public safety services.
Alaska has the highest rate of sexual violence in America, particularly in remote indigenous communities. The Daily News and ProPublica uncovered major gaps in law enforcement that placed residents at risk. For example, at least 70 communities have no local public safety officers. Victims wait hours and sometimes days for first responders to fly into far-flung villages, while some small cities have resorted to hiring police officers convicted of felonies, domestic violence and sexual offenses.
ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein, Adriana Gallardo, Beena Raghavendran and Nadia Sussman, and the Daily News’ David Hulen, Alex Demarban, Michelle Theriault Boots and Tess Williams also contributed to the series.
Following the series’ publication, U.S. Attorney General William Barr visited the state and declared the lack of law enforcement in rural Alaska to be a federal emergency. The declaration has led the Department of Justice to promise more than $52 million in federal funding for public safety in Alaska villages. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage also announced the hiring of additional rural prosecutors, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state will hire 15 additional state troopers. Two of those will be based in villages that the Daily News-ProPublica series identified as home to a police officer convicted as a sex offender and where the murder of an Alaska Native woman has gone unsolved for three years.
This is the second year in a row that a Local Reporting Network project has been named a Goldsmith Prize finalist. “Accused in Elkhart,” a collaboration with the South Bend Tribune revealing abuses of power in the Police Department of Elkhart, Indiana, was named a finalist in 2019, in addition to ProPublica’s “Zero Tolerance” series on detention facilities for immigrant children.
See a full list of 2020 Goldsmith Prize finalists here.