Officials alarmed by surge in violent crime in unincorporated Pierce County

Gun crime trends in unincorporated Pierce County are causing concern among officials.

According to recent data shared with the Pierce County Public Safety Committee, there have been a total of 58 firearm-related crimes reported in unincorporated Pierce County in the year 2024, up until March. Shockingly, the month of March alone accounted for 20 of these cases. This highlights the alarming rise in incidents involving firearms in the county.

During Monday’s committee meeting, Pierce County Councilmember Paul Herrera expressed his deep concern regarding the high numbers. He emphasized, “That’s really concerning seeing these numbers because I think it’s pretty high.”

Herrera highlighted the alarming number of 20 cases reported in March. However, a comparison of the firearm-involved crime rates in the first three months of 2024 with the previous three years reveals a significant drop.

In the first quarter of 2022, there were an average of 37 firearm-involved crimes, compared to 29 in 2023. However, the average for the first three months of 2024 dropped to 19.

As of Monday, there have been a total of six homicides in unincorporated Pierce County this year.

Patti Jackson, the Chief of Patrol for Pierce County, stressed the gravity of the situation. She emphasized the importance of unity within the community to effectively combat crime.

According to Jackson, there was a significant rise in crime in unincorporated Pierce County following the Blake decision in the summer of 2021, which declared the state’s felony drug possession law as unconstitutional. However, this issue was resolved through a permanent legislative solution in 2023 to tackle drug possession and use in Washington.

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The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is responsible for serving over 400,000 residents in the unincorporated areas of the county, making it the second largest population after the City of Seattle, which has over 720,000 residents.

The current staffing rate of the sheriff’s department is 0.54 deputies per 1,000 residents, making it the second lowest staffed law enforcement agency in Washington. Only the University Place Police Department has a lower staffing rate at 0.45 per 1,000 residents.

From 2022 to 2024, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office has welcomed 78 new hires, with 12 of them joining this year alone.

According to Jackson, the department is currently in the process of training 37 new hires.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department’s Mountain Detachment, as previously reported by The Center Square, is currently operating out of the basement of Eatonville City Hall. At present, the county is actively exploring various potential locations to build a new facility for the mountain detachment.

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