Half of Tacoma’s homicide victims under 18; city and youth programs hoping for change

TACOMA, Wash. — The city of Tacoma reported 10 homicides in 2023. Half of the victims in those homicides are under the age of 18.

According to Tacoma police, three teenagers have died at the hands of gun violence. On Wednesday, a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed near Tacoma Community College.

“This family, friends, fellow students … the ripple effects, right, go throughout this community and broader,” Tacoma Police Department Public Information Officer Wendy Haddow told KIRO 7 at the scene.

Vicky McLaurin with the Neighborhood and Community Services Department of Tacoma says the city has invested $2 million in this past budget in order to provide funding for organizations and programs that directly work with at-risk youth on conflict resolution strategies. She says losing one young life to any sort of violence is one life too many.

“This is unfortunate and it’s not acceptable, and we continually work on areas to improve and to reduce the violent crimes and to give our children something else,” McLaurin said.

Youth programs in the area are also concerned about the issue. Nora Flemming de Sandoval, the executive director for Safe Streets, says some of the teens they work with knew the young boy who died Wednesday. She believes the issue of gun violence among youth goes way beyond the Puget Sound region.

“I think it’s a crisis across the country right now,” Flemming de Sandoval said.

She says the pandemic has really taken a toll on teenagers’ mental health. She says in order to fix this issue, they have to listen to the youth and provide the right resources for them.

“The other side of things is really getting people trained in youth mental health first aid. And understand what they can do to help young people feel better and heal from the wounds that they are feeling right now,” Flemming de Sandoval said.

Like many in the city, she believes it will take a village in order to save young lives.

“This isn’t a competition about who can do it best. This is, we all have to work together and collaborate on the solution and work together,” Flemming de Sandoval said.

Flemming de Sandoval says Safe Streets will host a public forum at Bethlehem Baptist Church on May 4 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the issue of gun violence amongst youth.

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