FBI releases crime statistics for 2009

Violent and property crime rose in unincorporated Pierce County, but fell in Tacoma last year, according to the annual FBI report, released Monday.

Both categories of crime fell in Tacoma and nationally. In Lakewood and statewide, violent crime increased but property crime decreased. The opposite was true in Puyallup, where violent crime fell and property crime rose.

The Sheriff’s Department reported a 3.2 percent increase in violent crimes – murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. It was the second consecutive year violent crime rose.

Particularly worrisome were the increases in strong-arm robberies, residential robberies and residential burglaries, sheriff’s officials said.

Property crimes – burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson were up nearly 3.4 percent. The previous two years, property crime had fallen.

Sheriff Paul Pastor said the increase was of concern but not surprising, given county budget cuts that have affected the number of deputies on patrol.

“We will always strive to do all that we can with the resources we are given,” Pastor said. “But when population and demand grow as staffing is frozen and then cut and then cut again, we cannot increase our impact.”

Sixteen homicides occurred in 2009, up six from 2008. Five deaths were law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty and five were siblings killed by their father.

The Sheriff’s Department reported fewer vehicle break-ins, because owners are getting better at stowing popular targets such as cell phones and GPS devices, and stereos are more securely fastened inside vehicles, sheriffs spokesman Ed Troyer said.

Tacoma police reported a nearly 2.6 decline in violent crime and nearly 7.3 percent drop in property crime. It was the second straight year that violent crime fell and the first time in three years that property crime dropped.

“It shows that some of the proactive programs that have been put into place are showing dividends,” police spokesman Mark Fulghum said, citing the department’s gang unit, patrols targeting drunken drivers, underage parties and curfew violators, the community liaison officers and the city’s community-based services program.

Officers handled more robberies last year than in 2008, though department officials saw no trend or pattern that explained the uptick, Fulguhm said.

“All it takes is for one person to go on a spree and the numbers change,” he said.

Nationally, violent crime dropped 5.3 percent and property crime fell 4.6 percent. All of the violent crime categories decreased from 2008, as did all property crime categories.

Murder fell by 7.3 percent, robbery by 8 percent, aggravated assault by 4.2 percent and rape by 2.6 percent. Motor vehicle theft was down by 17.1 percent, larceny by 4 percent and burglary by 1.3 percent.

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268 stacey.mulick@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/crime  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.