Tacoma city leaders discuss plans to address concerning increase in violent crimes

In 2020, Tacoma saw the most violent crimes per capita than other communities in Washington, according to interim police chief for the Tacoma Police Department, Mike Ake.

Ake and other city leaders participated in a virtual study session on Tuesday, discussing ideas to address the uptick in crime across the city.

Mayor Victoria Woodards said time is of the essence when it comes to reducing the violence in the community.

"But we know, despite as fast as we want to move, there are some processes that just purely take time. And I know that’s incredibly frustrating, it is for all of us, especially when we’re talking about saving lives in our community," said Woodards.

During the hours-long study session, Ake said there is no one solution to fix the uptick in criminal activity.

"It just has to be a community approach that we take collectively together. We’re just one part of it, but in order for us to get that true change and effect of the violence and the crime that’s happening in the city, there’s no doubt about it. This is an all-hands approach," said Ake.

The interim police chief showed the study session a heat map of the city’s top five locations where violent crimes occurred from January through July of 2021. The top locations were:

  • 84th to 96th along South Hosmer St
  • 38th to 48th along Portland Ave
  • 38th to 47th between South Tacoma Way and Steele St
  • Division to S 19th between MLK and Pacific Ave
  • Yakima to Pacific Ave – South Tacoma Way to East D St

RELATED: Tacoma City Councilmembers call for increase police presence after rise in violent crimes

Along with those five areas of concern, some district leaders said they wanted to see an increased presence in all sections of the city. 

Earlier in August, councilmembers Lillian Hunter, Robert Thoms and Conor McCarthy wrote a letter to the mayor and city manager calling on more officers across all of Tacoma to help curb crime. 

Hunter said she understands violence is increasing in communities across the nation.

"While we can’t resolve it on a state or national level or with other cities, we can certainly focus on what’s happening in Tacoma and start to use some innovative problem solving," said Hunter.

Problem solving is what Ake said the department is currently doing regarding a staff shortage. He said law enforcement nationwide are experiencing similar challenges.

"What’s even harder is we just don’t want to hire anybody off the streets. We want to hire high quality, good people and people in the BIPOC community," said Ake.

Ake said the department is considering adjusting hiring protocols to attract quality candidates. He also mentioned they’re working with an agency to diversify the department with more people of color and women.

During the study session, Councilmember John Hines asked Ake about retention efforts at the police department.

"We’re losing officers faster than we can hire them," said Hines before directing his question to the chief. "Are we doing anything to keep our current officers in the police department here in Tacoma? Is there anything that we’re doing right now?"

Ake replied, "We’re having discussions with HR regarding that issue. If we want to attract people and more to the department we need to talk about incentives, and what does that mean and what can be available to do and what our rules are on that."

Mayor Woodards said there will be more conversations about addressing the increased violence and taking a closer look at the city budget to support efforts.

"Know that we still have a lot of work to do. There’s no doubt about the amount of work that we have to do," said Woodards. "The work that needs to be done needs to happen faster and I completely understand that because community safety is about saving lives and protecting lives."

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