TACOMA, Wash. - With a rise in shootings and other crimes, it's turning out to be a deadly summer for the City of Tacoma. The number of homicides has jumped more than 50% over the same time period last year.
The police chief's new plan was only announced in July, and there has already been more policing and patrols in crime ‘hotspot’ areas—but there's still a long way to go to combat crime in Tacoma.
"Crime in the area has definitely increased, you know, 100% to 1,000%," said Robert Clark, a longtime Tacoma resident.
Robert has lived in the Tacoma area for much of his life. He said he's seen the violent crime increasing, with some of his friends heavily impacted in South Tacoma.
"I have a friend who lives on 13th and G, and in the last two weeks, there have been two people killed there," said Clark. "One person was killed by gunshots, one person was run over while inside their tent, and I’m not sure if that was an accident or if it was on purpose."
Tacoma Police say department stats show that year to date, there were 16 homicides reported in 2021. This year, there have already been 27 reported.
"As of this weekend, for the year 2022, our homicide stats are at 27 for last year at this same date," said Shelbie Boyd with the Tacoma Police Department. "So, August 1st, 2021, we were at 16."
Police Chief Avery Moore recently rolled out his crime-prevention plan in July. Part of the plan involved cracking down on a small percentage of repeat and violent offenders. Through research, criminologists also identified 24 violent addresses that caused 12% of street crimes in the city. That included murders, robberies and aggravated assaults. Officers are now conducting hot spot patrols in the neighborhoods of the identified violent addresses.
"We are going to weed out the people who need to be weeded out," said Moore during the announcement.
Boyd said the department is still waiting to see if the stats show if the new policing plan has had an impact or not, but she said early indications are that community policing has helped officers to get to violent crime calls much faster.
"I do know in that in reading our shift recaps, there are now times where those police officers out doing that community-oriented type policing, and being in specific areas at certain times of the day, that there’s actually officers very close by to some of these situations. So, what I see is that offers a victim an officer there much quicker than if that wasn’t taking place," said Shelbie.
City council members shared concerns during Moore's announcement about the possibility of hotspot patrolling leading to questionable tactics like over-policing, stop-and-frisk measures, racial stereotyping, or discretionary practices of officers. Moore asserted his plan does not allow for that.
Boyd said a multi-prong approach to combating increases in crime will likely play a role in bringing numbers down. That includes:
- More community policing
- Giving officers the opportunity to interact in their communities
- Hiring more officers to fill those roles
At last count, she said the department was looking to hire around 40 positions.
"We are catching up. We are hiring as many as we can, as quick as we can," said Boyd. "We are looking at our training programs and trying to adapt it to a more adult-learning style, and the police academy has been working with us and trying to get as many into classes as we can get in."
Robert attributes the increases in crime to a spike in drug use and trafficking, and feels that getting drugs off the streets is part of the answer.
"You have to go in, and you have to do it right away, that’s what I would say and that’s what I would do," said Robert.
"It’s not just a crime problem as it relates to the police," said Shelbie. "There are drugs, mental health, and a lot of systems that are struggling right now, and everybody has to come together to try to figure this out."