In Anoka County, future home of two trend-setting public-safety facilities, death has been as inevitable as the taxes needed to pay for a tri-county forensic lab and new medical examiner's office. And in 2008, the county death rate has risen more than 20 percent.

There were 614 reported deaths in Anoka County through June 30. That's 21 percent more than the 506 reported deaths at the halfway mark of 2007, Dr. Janis Amatuzio, Anoka County medical examiner, reported Tuesday in her annual report to the County Board. But officials were not drawing any conclusions from the numbers, and the data may not reflect what will come in the second half of the year.

In a year of celebratory groundbreakings for a $27 million public safety building with tri-county forensic lab and $7 million medical examiner's office, the number of reported deaths bucks a recent trend.

Overall, 974 people died in the county in 2007 -- 20 fewer than the 994 who died in Anoka County in 2006.

Those deaths tell much about how Anoka County residents live.

Fridays were found to be the most fatal day of the week last year.

"Maybe people are exhausted by the end of the week, or maybe they're in a hurry to get out of town," Amatuzio said.

The vast majority of deaths last year -- 865 -- were considered natural. More than one-fourth of those -- 277 -- required investigation. More than one-third -- 325 received hospice care before death.

Road death decline

Twelve people died in car accidents -- fewer than half of the 26 who died in traffic accidents in 2006. Road surfaces were dry in eight of the fatalities. Four people died in the early morning hours, between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m., the most fatal time of day on Anoka County roads.

Four of the 12 road casualties involved people who had been drinking. A pedestrian was struck by a pickup truck with a snowplow attachment. Another pedestrian was crushed between his unoccupied semi-tractor truck and another unattended semi. A driver who collided with a truck in 2005 died two years later because of complications from his injuries.

Three died in Blaine; no other Anoka County city had more than two road casualties last year.

Of the seven male casualties, six were drivers. One died on a motorcycle, one driving an all-terrain vehicle. Three were not wearing seat belts at the time of death. Of the five women who died, three were drivers, and three were found unrestrained in their vehicles.

Over the past five years, Hwy. 65 has been the deadliest in Anoka County, with 13 deaths, but last year there was only one fatality there.

There were 33 suicides in the county in 2007 -- 31 men and two women. That ratio of suicides of men to women -- 15 to 1 in the county -- is higher than the 10 to 1 average throughout the state, Amatuzio said.

"Women are killed when they leave a relationship," said Amatuzio. "Men kill themselves when relationships end." Seventeen of the men and one of the women who committed suicide did so by gunshot. While suicide victims in Minneapolis or St. Paul often die from wounds inflicted by handguns, the suicide weapon of choice among Anoka County men is more often a long gun -- perhaps because of the percentage of hunters in the county. Methadone was the drug most often linked with overdose fatalities, Amatuzio said.

There were three homicides in 2007 in Anoka County -- less than half of the seven homicides in 2006. The average age of a homicide victim in 2007 was 43, but that's the one statistic that varies greatly from year to year. In 2006, the average age of a homicide victim in Anoka County was 28; in 2005 it was 36, in 2004, 47, and in 2003, 24.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419