TACOMA, Wash. - Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards provided an update on the state of the city Thursday night. She says some of the issues the community is most concerned about include; crime, homelessness and affordable housing.
The mayor says, although people may not feel very safe due to a record year for some violent crimes in 2022, she believes things are improving and explained how the city is working to reverse the trends that most concern residents.
"Total homicides reached a high last year resulting in a loss of 45 lives. This is not the type of record that we want to set as a city," said Woodards. "Tragically, we have already lost 6 lives to homicides this year, three of which happened in just the first 3 weeks, and heartbreakingly involved gun violence among our youths."
The mayor says the past level of violence is unacceptable. She says that the access that youths have to firearms is also troubling, with nearly 5% of 12th graders admitting during a recent study to carrying a weapon to school at some point. She says gun owners need to be more responsible in securing weapons.
"Police department data shows that every 48 hours, a gun is stolen from a car. Not from a person or a home, but from an unattended car," she said.
Woodards says using baseline data, the city will work to intervene where youth need it the most and will be working to add more officers at the police department. The mayor says they hired 53 officers in 2022 adan currently have 29 officer vacancies. However, more than 50 officers are eligible for retirement in the next few years, so the city will be introducing a $10,000 retention and recruitment incentive.
"We need to add more police officers and to free up our officers, so they can do what they are trained to do to protect and serve," said Woodards.
The mayor says in response to community concerns around non-violent crime and property crime, last week the city negotiated with the police union to begin a leading edge officer services program.
"I will be working with my city council members to commit one million dollars to hire our first community service officers," said Woodards.
She says the city is also building a team to address non-violent people in crisis.
"We have already hired two experts to establish and co-lead the Behavioral Health crisis response team," said Woodards. "Our 2023 – 2024 budget invests a record setting 372 million dollars in safety and 101 million dollars in housing and homelessness."
The mayor says hot spot patrols will also continue in the city. She says as part of the Violence Reduction Plan, police will continue to station visible patrol cars in strategic locations at strategic times. During the first 90 days of Phase 1, she says violent crime dropped 30% in 16 hot spots.
She says in Phase 2 problem oriented place-based policing will continue.