A press release from Tacoma Safe.
Tacoma – On October 6, 2021, more than 200 Tacoma residents and business owners gathered to launch Tacoma Safe – a community-led campaign focused on addressing rising violent crime and inhumane homeless encampments.
“Tacoma Safe is about bringing people together in our city to take action,” said Angela Connelly, co-founder of Tacoma Safe. “Safety means different things to different people, but we can find common ground when it comes to addressing violent crime, improving 911 response times, and effectively helping those experiencing homelessness. It’s time to speak up and take action to make Tacoma Safe.”
The campaign is currently gathering petition signatures to gain support. More than 600 people have signed the petition to date. The petition asks City Council and all City leaders to take immediate action to address the crime and perception of lawlessness.
In 2020, Tacoma had the most violent crimes per capita in Washington State, with its highest homicide rate in 26 years. This year, Tacoma is on pace to exceed the record number of homicides set last year. The rapid rise in violent crime is worsened by a shortage of police personnel. The result is hours-long police response times and sometimes no police response whatsoever.
“I run a housing complex for vulnerable women & their children working hard to escape poverty and, in many cases, domestic violence. When there are threats to my residents, I call 911. At times I have been told that no police will come, ‘you will just have to protect yourself’,” said Monique Patterson, co-founder of Tacoma Safe.
The lack of police response is happening daily throughout our community because there simply aren’t enough responders. The city is failing in its most important responsibility to its residents – public safety.
Tacoma Safe believes that transforming policing is one part of what is needed to help all Tacoma residents feel safe. While they fully support that work, they believe transformation alone will not address the rising crime and should not be allowed to be a barrier to immediate action to address response times to 911 calls, rising crime rates and the perception of lawlessness around Tacoma.
Tacoma Safe is also dedicated to finding ways to support those experiencing homelessness, including providing short and long-term approaches to treatment and housing. Encampments create a public health and safety concern for those living in the space and the residents and businesses in the area.
“The encampments are inhumane. Camping on the streets is not a viable solution to helping anyone find a home, stability, or the mental health and substance use services that many need. The current approach on encampments is simply not working and creating dangerous situations for the houseless and adjacent neighbors and businesses,” said business owner Kristen Wynne, co-founder of TacomaSafe.
Tacoma Safe is asking City Council and other stakeholders to address:
- Lowering the average response time to 911 calls so residents in crisis can get help right away;
- Driving down the murder, burglary, and arson rates; Reinstating and enforcing the camping ban;
- Providing “safe camping” sites in combination with services to support the transition of the unhoused by providing mental health and addiction treatment;
- Proactively removing trash and graffiti and engaging the community to become more active in doing this work in our neighborhoods.
To achieve these goals, the following actions by the city are necessary:
- Immediately remove the barriers which prevent the police from filling all of the budgeted vacancies.
- Immediately provide police with the resources and effective strategies necessary to enforce the law, address the long response times, and lower our crime rates.
- Expedite the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding process for police.
“I am so encouraged by the kickoff to this campaign,” said Lynette Scheidt, President of the Eastside Neighborhood Council. “We have people from across the City ready to take action.”
The Oct. 6 meeting was just the first step, Tacoma Safe invites all residents of Tacoma to sign the petition and join this effort. It’s time to speak up, organize, and take action to make Tacoma safe.
About Tacoma Safe: Tacoma Safe was motivated by a recent letter sent on August 10, 2021, by Tacoma City Council Members Robert Thoms, Lillian Hunter, and Conor McCarthy demanding more public safety resources to address rising crime. (See 8/10/21 Letter enclosed). The group of concerned citizens and business owners believes that working together at the community level is the most effective way to make a difference.