SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Column - Commentary - Humor

Guess we're not as gansta as we thought


April 24, 2019
Thursday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Humans are obsessed with ranking things. Top ten this. Top ten that.  It seems like every other post on the internet these days is a ranking of some sort. Where do we stack up? You'd think we were all still in high school or something!

jpg  Dave Kiffer

Of course, not all the rankings agree or make sense. For example, we have read recently that Ketchikan is the "poorest" city in Alaska. It is not, but the per capita income is lower than some other places. Then again, we have also read that Ketchikan is the "best place to live in Alaska" according to another ranking.

Apparently, money isn't everything, n'est - ce  pas?

Recently a group called SafeWise ranked all the cities in America based on crime statistics and determined which are safest.

It probably comes as no surprise that no Alaskan communities made the top 100 or probably even the top 1.000.000. We Alaskans like our alcohol and our sometimes violent problem solving methods too much to compete with those quaint "Mayberry"ish communities elsewhere.

The one time we tried to have one of those "village green" bandstand gazebos in downtown Ketchikan, someone tried to burn it down. Go figure.

And such sort of things do not help you top national "safety" rankings.

According to SafeWise, the safest community in America is the Massachusetts town of Hopkinton.

I have actually been to Hopkinton, located conveniently 26.2 miles west of Boston. Twice. Once simply because it was there. When I lived in Massachusetts, low those many decades ago, I made a point of getting out of Boston as often as possible to see the "countryside."

There is something relentlessly charming about all those "villages" ringing Beantown,

 and Hopkinton  - "It all starts here" - was certainly charming. It had lots of green space, old houses, quaint shops and, at least 30 years ago, a gazebo.

Except on Patriot's Day, the third Monday in April  Hopkinton is not quaint on Patriot's Day.

That's the one day of the year - and the second time I was there - that you don't want to be anywhere near Hopkinton. You see, Hopkinton is where they start the Boston Marathon. Being in Hopkinton on April 19, is like being in downtown Ketchikan when both the Gargantua of the Seas and the Monstrosity Princess are tied up to the docks. Something like 25,000 people are standing around just waiting for the signal to go.

And, no, the signal is not someone shouting "10 percent off loose diamonds!!!!"

But I digress.

Anyway, Hopkinton, the town of 50,000 tight shoe laces once a year, is the "safest city in America" according to SafeWise. Like several other communities near the top of the list, Hopkinton has had no violent crimes reported in, like, forever.

This makes sense because, unless you consider "cutting ahead" in the four-hour line to start the Marathon a crime, there pretty much is nothing else going on in Hopkinton to warrant a criminal act.

But enough about Hopkinton.  I'm sure you're dying (not literally) to find out how the cities in Alaska stack up, crime wise.

First, some general facts, about Alaska crime, according to SafeWise.

Alaskan cities have more violent crime that those in most other states. Well, duh.

Property crime is nearly double the national average. More than 22 percent of Alaskans have been the victim of a property crime in the past year. That number is even higher in certain places. For example Anchorage. Where every car was stolen twice last year.

SafeWise must have interviewed some folks in Anchorage because the survey found that Alaskans in general were more concerned about car thefts than actual violent crime.

By now you are wondering, not unreasonably, why should you care about this?

I'm so glad you asked.

Is Ketchikan the safest city in Alaska?

No, but it ranks better than you might have guessed.

The safest city, according to SafeWise, is Sitka.

This probably comes as a surprise to anyone - like me - who regularly reads the Police Report in the Daily Sitka Sentinel, but once again it is a matter of degree. Compared to Hopkinton, Sitka is a "combat zone." But compared to the rest of Alaska, not so much. Sitka has a very low violent crime rate and very low property crime rate for Alaska. Of course, something has to have some value before someone else wants to take it, but you didn't hear that from me.

Number two is Homer. Apparently people are too busy making art and catching halibut to engage in much crime on Kachemak Bay. Note, that fish and game violations are not counted in these rankings. If they were, I suspect Homer would have slightly higher numbers.

Number 3 is Palmer. This is a bit of a surprise because the MatSu is generally seen as an area that has some significant crime "issues." Maybe those are confined to Wasilla and Big Lake? Anyway, Palmer is the third "safest" community in Alaska. Numbers can be misleading but they usually don't outright fib.

Number 4, is the real head scratcher. Dutch Harbor. Really? How is the "Deadwood" of the Aleutians even on this list? If any town in Alaska maintains its rowdy, frontier, anything goes nature, it has to be "Dutch."  But no, compared to other places in Alaska, Dutch Harbor is nearly as "tame" as Hopkinton. Well, maybe not THAT tame, but tamer than., say, Bethel.

And finally, drum roll please, the 5th Safest Community in Alaska, according to SafeWise..........Ketchikan.

Wow, I grew up internalizing the idea that Ketchikan was always one of the "rougher" communities in the state (reinforced by the opinions of my more civilized brethren and sistren in places like Sitka and Juneau).  That was our shtick. We were a "working class" town that also partied more than a little bit. The unofficial town motto was "Ketchikan: A Drinking Town with a Fishing Problem."

But no! Ketchikan is "safer" than all but four other towns in Alaska.

Dang, we're gonna have to try harder next time.

Either way, I guess.



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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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