Crime is down in Tacoma.
In the last decade, per-capita violent crime has gone down 9 percent, burglaries are down 14 percent, and auto theft is down 26 percent.
While our population has trended up, our crime has trended down. We recently read some scary headlines about crime in Tacoma, but headlines can be deceiving and may give the wrong impression about Tacoma. We should always strive to reduce and prevent crime, and we are doing that, from violent crime to property crime. We care about all crime victims.
When it comes to violent crime, a person is more likely to be victimized by someone they know. Domestic violence is the number one cause of injury to women.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, people ages 25 and younger are more likely to be victims of violent crime. The older you are, the less likely you will be a victim of violent crime.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation releases annual numbers that compare crime rates in various cities. While it is useful to compare Tacoma numbers past and present, it is not useful to compare Tacoma with Seattle or Yakima. Why not?
Because not everyone plays by the same rules. Different cities report crime differently. Different cities define crimes differently. Different cities have different populations.
Some cities like Tacoma for instance, encourage the reporting of domestic violence, while other cities do not. Some cities treat elder abuse crime as a civil matter, while some treat it as a criminal matter.
In Tacoma, our Police Department encourages citizens to report domestic violence and elder abuse, both of which are underreported in some other jurisdictions. We are leaders in prosecuting and preventing domestic violence and elder abuse. This is due, in part, to public awareness campaigns that temporarily drove up numbers in those categories. This uptick was not due to more crime, but to more reporting. More reporting means more accountability, which means less crime in the long run.
And that’s what we should focus on: long-term trends. Gang violence in Pierce County is down almost 60 percent in the last few years and much of the decline is in Tacoma. Reputation, however, often lags behind reality. All three of us often have lunch on Hilltop and sometimes must explain to our friends that it’s now a perfectly safe neighborhood.
Though crime is decreasing, there is still work to do. The Tacoma Police Department is in the process of recruiting and hiring more officers and they have been cutting edge in their use of DNA, data, and other modern tools. TPD is a major partner in the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office High Priority Offender program, a new data-driven approach to fighting crime by focusing on career criminals.
Tacoma has also been a leader in addressing some of the root causes of crime with our Gang Prevention Project, investment in mental health services and youth programs, making education a civic priority, and Project Peace, which builds upon and improves our community policing efforts and relationships.
What matters is not short-term problems, but long-term progress. Tacoma had a tough reputation for many years, “the most stressed city,” “keep Tacoma feared,” and so on.
That’s a reputation from the past, not today’s reality. More people are visiting, moving to Tacoma and choosing to live here for our quality of life. Seattle based restaurants are opening shop in Tacoma. Nearly one billion dollars of private investment in housing, office and retail are planned for Tacoma.
Look beyond headlines and the bumper stickers. Singer Neko Case called Tacoma “a dusty old jewel in the South Puget Sound.”
Our past may be dusty, but our future shines.
Marilyn Strickland is finishing her second and final term as mayor this year.
Mark Lindquist is our Pierce County prosecutor. He was appointed in ’09, elected in 2010, and re-elected in 2014.
John Ladenburg served as Pierce County executive for eight years and Pierce County prosecutor for 14 years.