TACOMA, Wash. — The Tacoma Police Department shared new details on Tuesday about how the city plans to stamp down violent crime.
The city’s homicide rate is currently more than double this time last year.
The police department has already done a soft roll out in March of this year, focusing on crime hot spots in the city. Now the police chief is facing questions from city council about how the rest of it will work.
People behind the plan during the Tacoma City Council meeting say the plan has worked in other major cities and is based on 25 years of research.
Crime data will be reviewed weekly, and the plan will be adjusted every 90 days.
“I know this will make the impact in the right way we want in the City of Tacoma,” said Chief Avery Moore of the Tacoma Police Department.
The chief and criminologists with the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) broke down the crime reduction plan and fielded questions from city council members in a nearly two-hour meeting addressing how the city plans to address violent crime.
“It’s one of the biggest issues facing our city,” said Mayor Victoria Woodards.
Data presented by UTSA showed how crime has spiked.
“What you see is violent street crime in Tacoma. It’s particularly steep in the last 12 months,” said Mike Smith, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at UTSA.
During the discussion, Woodards highlighted one of the most difficult homicides impacting Tacoma recently - a young teenage girl, shot and killed last week.
“Our community needs this plan, and we need it now – evidenced by the loss of a 14-year-old, Lyana, in our community,” Woodards said.
Phase 1 of the crime reduction plan has already been rolled out. Tacoma police are focusing on 16 “hot spots” that generate a disproportionate amount of crime.
Squad cars will turn on lights for 15 minutes at a time at these locations during peak crime hours.
Moore emphasized the plan does not mean profiling people or neighborhoods.
“High visibility is really about having the squad cars there, so the people in the neighborhood know you’re there. And equally important, the criminals know you’re there,” Moore said.
The next phases of the plan are more complex.
Phase 2 will start six months to a year from now and involves bringing other city departments and community groups together to examine the crime hot spots. They will also work together to figure out why a certain place is a problem area and develop long-term solutions.
“Phase 2 is a heavy lift. It will require collaboration from all these entities that may have never worked together before,” Moore said.
Phase 3 starts six months to a year after Phase 2 is underway.
It will bring in a “crime deterrence” piece to address repeat offenders, providing assistance to help break the cycle of “a violent lifestyle.”
The police chief also emphasized the plan doesn’t mean crime will be overlooked.
“The known offender part, if you violate the law, you’re going to jail,” Moore said. “This is not a get out of jail free card.”
Some community members at the meeting were a little skeptical.
“Do you think this plan will help?” KIRO7′s Deedee Sun asked.
“That’s a tough question. I would like to believe this plan will work. However, I do recognize there are challenges ahead,” said Bill Dickens, who was in the audience. “I haven’t lost confidence in the City of Destiny.”
Others are even more optimistic.
“This is the first time in my history as a community member of Tacoma that there has been a (crime) plan implemented that is going to include the plan and input of community members,” said Candace Wesley of a grassroots group called Tacoma Cease Fire. “This is our city. So it has no choice but to work, as long as it keeps community members involved.”
City leaders are confident this new plan will make Tacoma safer.
“I have no doubt we are going to be successful,” Woodards said.
The Tacoma Police Department is currently facing a shortage of 47 officers, but the police chief said the plan was tailored to the police department’s current staffing levels.
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