Tacoma Urbanist

May. 20, 2008 at 12:20am

Is City Manager's Plan to Cut Crime in Half Realistic?


Last month, City Manager Eric Anderson pledged to reduce crime by 50 percent in 14 months, an ambitious goal.

To reach those goals, City Manager Eric Anderson asked employees to tackle two major challenges:

  1. Make Tacoma safer by reducing crime within the city by 50 percent over the next 14 months
  2. Make Tacoma cleaner by removing nuisances, debris and junk vehicles
Tacoma City Employees came up with  28 tactics:

Promote home ownership Mobilize neighborhoods Create passion and enthusiasm for neighborhood clean up through incentives
Create a neighborhood bill of rights  Revise City codes, laws and policies Quick response - one call
Youth building and crime prevention education  Improve community participation in removing illegal dumping and debris Educate the community about its role in blight elimination
Change the image of Tacoma  Find what has been successful in other cities Know available resources and how to get them
Change requirements for business licenses Utilize city staff for crime identification 'We're the infrastructure guys'
Create a Neighborhood Improvement Area (NIA) Create a citizen code of conduct Increasing the number of permanent streets throughout Tacoma
Reduce crime through maintenance improvement assistance Build partnerships between the City, County and State as well as the community to share information Work with schools to develop education and community service programs
Create a Tactical Research Analysis Center (Crime TRAC) Full community participation Coordinated service delivery to mobilized neighborhood block groups
Develop a Tacoma resident offender re-entry program Change the existing jail release policies  
Target career criminals Clean up critical areas - improve safety  

(Click on the links to see the ideas in each category)


First off, it is commendable that City Manager Anderson is making such a large goal.  It acknowledges that Tacoma has a crime problem that needs to be addressed with a relatively short time line.

Governments have a natural tendency maintain the status quo.

All of the ideas may have some merit.  However, given the exceedingly high relative crime rate of felons being released from prison,  the city is not going to be able to have a significant impact on the crime without reducing the concentration of felons in the city.

Solution I: Reduce the Number of Felons Being Placed in Pierce County

Pierce County has long been a preferred placement location by the Department of Corrections.  This is the felon dumping ground issue that has been analyzed by the Pierce County Prosecutor and the Tacoma City Club. 

Despite the "fair share" legislation last year, the City of Tacoma is going to have to be extra vigilant if it going to ever reduce the number of felons in the county to Tacoma's proportionate share.  Many entities that benefit from the current arrangement are not going to accept any changes easily.

Solution II: Transport Criminals Released in Pierce County to the city they were arrested in.

Currently, most people that are arrested are processed and then released in downtown Tacoma even if they were arrested in another part of the county like Orting.  A relatively small percentage of those arrested in Pierce County spend a much time in jail.

This creates a continual high concentration of jail releeses in and around the jail in downtown Tacoma spiking the crime rate in the city.

The City of Tacoma could quickly reduce the crime rate by simply paying for the transport of jail releasees back to the area they live in.  I am sure the former inmates would appreciate the free transportation and that it would be a good deal for city.

Some have suggested putting more funds into making sure the stays in jail are a few days longer.  Unfortunately, this would give little relief for Tacoma and just increase the buffer of people in the system.

It will be interesting to see how much progress can be made. 

comments [18]  |  posted under tacoma


by NineInchNachos on 5/20/2008 @ 9:15am
Solution III: I smell a tacomic!

by Erik on 5/20/2008 @ 11:37am
The links lead to documents containing some pretty good ideas and relatively "organic" for a city government to publish.

by Twisty on 5/20/2008 @ 12:17pm
It's a laudable goal, and also... a pipe dream.

There is really only one thing that will get us to the target: a significant turnover in the population. Until we can persuade bad people to move out, and get good people to move in... crime will remain close to current levels.

by Erik on 5/20/2008 @ 12:31pm
Until we can persuade bad people to move out, and get good people to move in... crime will remain close to current levels.

Considering that Pierce County and the DOC has literally forced felons to locate here in the past in disproportionate numbers, I think some progress can be made.

It's a laudable goal...

The only sure fire way I know to lower crime quickly is to lower the felon placements in the city and county. Something like 2/3rds of released felons end up in jail in a few years.

by Twisty on 5/20/2008 @ 12:54pm
True enough, Erik. But I doubt that released felons are contributing anywhere close to 50% of our crime problem.

I'll bet that if we were to eliminate all of the DOC's released felons (which won't happen no matter how much we complain), it wouldn't make that much difference.

I think it would be far more effective to work on eliminating meth.

by Jake on 5/20/2008 @ 1:05pm
I don't think the goal is out of reach. Crime has been on the decrease in a lot of neighborhoods. For instance overall crime around where I live is down almost 20% over last year.

It also seems like crime in the city has been pretty light so far this year. Atleast when you compare all the crime happening in Seattle these days (stabbings, beatings, 12 murders compared to Tacoma's 2, gropers, etc etc).

Now add in what city is doing with code enforcement and citizens getting more involved and the 50% may not be so hard to realize.

by SouthEnd on 5/20/2008 @ 2:19pm
The other issue here is the severe lack of staffing for our justice system. While they have become more efficent, they have not necesarily become more effective due to the sheer numbers. How can we continue to operate with detective levels the same as they were in 1975 with quadruple the case load? I am still for a levy that would pay for cops, prosecutors, detectives, street level crime teams etc...

We need to look at this s a whole, not just pieces - I don't see all of this coming from a city or county budget...


by Twisty on 5/20/2008 @ 8:37pm
A cynical person would also have to ask, "Do the police really want to reduce crime by 50%?" Particularly the police union -- it's easy to imagine that the union might not be in favor of a voluntarily-induced 50% cut in 'business' for their members.

by Erik on 5/20/2008 @ 9:26pm
I don't think the goal is out of reach. Crime has been on the decrease in a lot of neighborhoods. For instance overall crime around where I live is down almost 20% over last year.

The Community Based Services has helped alot:


As for your conspiracy theory Twisty, I don't think the police benefit from high crime rates. It makes their job more dangerous.

However, there are other entities that benefit from a large portion of the state's felons being placed in Tacoma:


There's still alot of holes in the social and urban fabric of the city that needs to be repaired.

I am still for a levy that would pay for cops, prosecutors, detectives, street level crime teams etc...

That might be a good idea. Though the felon release issues would have to be reformed at the same time.

Otherwise, Tacoma is perpetually stuck paying high taxes to arrest, prosecute, defend and incarcerate felons from around the state and the county.

If the jail is going to release people right away, its almost better if the county sheriff never arrested them rather than transport them to Tacoma.

As for your conspiracy theory Twisty, I don't think the police benefit from high crime rates, it makes their job more dangerous.

However, there are entities that financially benefit from high felon placement in Tacoma and Pierce County according to the Tacoma City Club Report:


by scout on 5/21/2008 @ 12:14am
I don't believe that crime is down in Tacoma. There have been at least six shootings in the last 10 days alone!

The police department is in charge of keeping, analyzing, and reporting the crime stats, which is an inherent conflict of interest.

If crime is up, the police look bad; if it's down they look good.

by NineInchNachos on 4/8/2010 @ 11:31pm
so did it work?

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 4/8/2010 @ 11:49pm
Pretty much, the city has asked me to stay out of Tacoma on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays.

by The Jinxmedic on 4/9/2010 @ 12:08pm
I noticed that the "28 Tactics" listed above didn't mention "Destroy all buldings listed on the National Register of Historic Places in back room deals to developers".



by Altered Chords on 4/9/2010 @ 1:10pm
Who's got the stats? Surely there are stats. Anecdotally I can say that In the past 1.5 years since moving into my place I notice NO riff raff on my street anymore.

The place a few doors down had an "incident" 2 months after I moved in and it has been boarded up by the city and then rennovated by a developer. The hood looks good.

Also, the sweep of the crips a few months ago was an encouraging sign that the city is serious about reducing crime.

by Altered Chords on 4/9/2010 @ 1:12pm
Besides - look at Anderson's face. It's a face that says: "I'm a freindly guy who can smile and joke but don't f..k w/ me or my city or I will kick your ass."

by The Jinxmedic on 4/9/2010 @ 1:53pm
Especially if you are a historic building. "Take that, you pile of bricks! Who's the man, NOW? Hunh?""

by Jake on 4/9/2010 @ 2:52pm
These are the crime stats 2009 through November:

Tacoma: 7 (-42%)

Aggravated Assault
Tacoma: 394 (-12%)

Tacoma: 581 (+3%)

Tacoma: 2557 (-7%)

Tacoma: 6324 (-23%)

Vehicle Theft
Tacoma: 1392 (-42%)

by Altered Chords on 4/9/2010 @ 3:31pm
These stats look decent. Altered Chords 1.43 thumbs up.