All Alaska Cities

Alcohol Smuggling Still a Problem

Just after seven were indicted on bootlegging charges (21 Oct) in Kotzebue by a grand jury, the Western Alaska Alcohol and Narcotics Team (WAANT) were collecting a few more. The seven indictments stem from three different cases relating to alcohol trafficking in the communities of Kiana and Buckland.

The new round of arrests (3 cases) comes from inspections of luggage and travelers in the Bethel region. All suspects were headed to villages where alcohol is banned.

From the crime log:

  • * On Saturday, October 22, Officers with the Western Alaska Alcohol and Narcotics team contacted a female traveler at the Bethel airport who was on her way to Toksook Bay. Her checked bag contained 8 bottles of alcohol.
  • Also on October 8, WAANT officers seized one bottle of alcohol and a small amount of marijuana from a woman who was waiting for a flight to Napakiak.
  • On Monday, October 24, WAANT officers contacted a couple who was waiting for their flight to Atmautluak. They seized 6 bottles of R and R whiskey from their checked luggage.

In a state where growing marijuana for personal use has been legal for decades, it seems strange to outsiders that running booze will get you arrested and possibly a felony conviction. The truth of the matter is that local communities have seen the harm that alcohol can bring and they’ve decided to ban it. Add in the remoteness of the villages and towns that are dry and it’s often a single point of contact for police to step in – airports being the main one.

Fortunately, the profit margin and volume are low enough that the stateside drug cartels haven’t taken much of an interest. It seems to be largely unorganized amateurs getting arrested. At least there haven’t been any reports of organized “booze rings.”


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