Violent and property crime dropped in Tacoma last year, continuing a trend that began two decades ago.
In unincorporated Pierce County, violent crimes were down and property crimes were up slightly, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs’ annual crime report, released last week.
Violent crimes are murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault; property crimes are arson, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.
Bonney Lake, Edgewood, Fircrest and Orting saw violent and property crimes increase last year. In DuPont, Federal Way, Milton and University Place, both categories dropped.
In Auburn, Fife, Lakewood, Steilacoom and Sumner, violent crime rose while property crime fell. In Gig Harbor and Puyallup, violent crime was down and property crime up.
In Tacoma, the number of violent crimes decreased 11.1 percent to 1,503 incidents last year from 1,691 in 2010, according to the report. Property crime dropped 4.3 percent, to 12,140 incidents in 2011 from 12,689 in 2010.
Police spokesman Mark Fulghum attributed the declines to two large-scale gang sweeps in recent years, as well as to policing efforts aimed at specific crimes, locations and people.
“Gang members were involved in both violent and property crimes and getting a large number of them off the streets contributed greatly to the reduction in crime,” Fulghum said.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department reported an 18.4 percent drop in violent crime in 2011, going to 920 incidents in 2011 from 1,127 incidents in 2010. Property crime in unincorporated parts of the county ticked up slightly (0.8 percent), going to 9,629 incidents from 9,556.
“We have worked hard to prioritize our responses to serious violent crimes and this approach has been successful,” Sheriff Paul Pastor said. “With budget constraints, property crime has not received as high a priority.
“I am concerned that we may be seeing the under-reporting property crimes. I want to encourage people to report all property crimes. Only by getting a true picture of the amount of crime can we work with the community to get the resources to drive property crime down.”
• The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office and the Olympia Police Department reported drops in both violent and property crimes. Lacey police reported an increase in violent crime and a decrease in property crime.
• Statewide, violent crime dropped 5 percent, going to 19,568 last year from 20,600 in 2010. Property crime dropped 3.3 percent, to 239,428 in 2011 from 247,503 in 2010.
• Assaults on law enforcement officers increased 2.9 percent in 2011, to 1,049 incidents from 1,019.
• Domestic violence crimes dropped 3.6 percent statewide, to 47,444 from 49,233.
• Hate crimes dropped 2.8 percent, to 207 from 213.
In Tacoma, violent crime peaked in 1991 and has been dropping since; property crime has been declining since 1987.
Fulghum noted the department’s focus on gangs in recent years. The department, in conjunction with the FBI’s South Sound Gang Task Force, state Department of Corrections and Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, has performed in-depth investigations on two gangs in the city.
In 2010, law enforcement cracked down on more than 30 alleged members or associates of the Hilltop Crips. The effort led to convictions for a series of crimes, including robberies, thefts and shootings, across the county in 2008 and 2009
The gang was again targeted last year. Prosecutors charged 22 suspected members or associates of the street gang in 35 criminal episodes – mostly burglaries and attempted burglaries.
By the end of 2010, prosecutors had charged 19 alleged members of the Eastside Lokote Surenos in connection with three homicides in Tacoma that year.
Prosecutors and Lakewood police targeted a third gang – the Tillicum Park Gangsters – in 2011, charging 11 suspected members or associates with drug-related crimes and robberies.
Tacoma police commanders also pointed to the agency’s “directed policing” efforts. When staffing allows, sector commanders have patrol officers target specific crime problems, hot spots and individuals. The initiative began in 2010.
“A majority of property crimes are committed by a relatively small number of individuals,” Fulghum said. “By directing our resources to address these issues, we were able to get a lot of these suspects off the street.”
The Crime in Washington 2011 report is available on the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs’ website at firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8268 blog.thenewstribune.com/crime