Crime in Tacoma – and beyond

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

There’s nothing new about crime in Tacoma.

Crime, local, petty, individual and systemic, at levels high and low, from car theft to corrupt sheriffs and government, have become almost idiomatic and forever associated with Tacoma and out-lying areas of Pierce County.

While the pandemic put a slight dent in our crime rate, the past few months have made up for any decline in local crime.

We in the greater Tacoma area, as of the end of February, were averaging one murder a week.

Prior to 2022, our average was about 30 per year.

Unless this trend changes, we are on our way to a total of about double our usual number of homicides.

Besides violent crimes, thefts, from cars to shoplifting, have become more brazen. In Tacoma we have even had a string of ATM thefts – yes, the entire machines have been ripped from the walls.

Car thefts

We all depend on our vehicles, and many of us park on the street or in public either at night or while at work or school. Or while out doing errands.

But whatever the reason, our cars are an irresistible target for thieves or those who would steal parts (like catalytic converters) or even gas.

You can follow car thefts locally on a Puget Sound centered Facebook group ( And if you have a car theft related tip or question, send it to

And, in case you were wondering, if current auto theft trends continue, we in the Puget Sound area (King & Pierce County) can expect 50,000 car thefts in 2022.

Bad actors

One of the life-lessons many of us accidently learned at school is that it only takes one to ruin it for everyone.

This is as true in a classroom as it is in a family and in a neighborhood.

There was time when children grew up in, and adults inhabited, a social framework defined by decency and a modicum of honesty and a commonly agreed-upon level of fairness. In any given situation, there was a shared sense of behavior and propriety.

Crime, at some level, under some conditions, in some areas, has always existed, but it, to a large degree, was always contained.

Shoplifting, at a minor level, candy or cosmetics, for example, has always been a concern for store owners.

And, if caught, public shaming or a call to parents was enough to curtail increased criminal activity.

To put it simply, this fragile social fabric no longer exists.

It only takes a few to cause trouble for all of us.

Earlier this month, March 7th, to be precise, a subject was arrested and booked into the Pierce County Jail on 10 counts of armed robbery in Gig Harbor, University Place and Tacoma.

Another suspect was booked on four counts of armed robbery (including another Gig Harbor incident) and released on $50,000 bond.

A friend of mine has witnessed people stuffing shopping carts full of tools from a local big-box hardware store and just walking out. When pursued by store staff, the thieves just ignored them and kept going.

My friend, who realized what they were doing, foolishly or courageously, put obstacles (in this case, nearby wooded palettes) around the car (which had its license plates removed) to stall the theft. He even, at one point, just grabbed a shopping cart from the thieves and took it back to the store.

Maybe that’s what store staff should do; literally “steal” the merchandise back from the thieves.

Or maybe stores could invest in tiny tracking devices on products or to attach to vehicles.

These thieves are costing all of us.

For whatever reason our local law enforcement cannot, or will not, respond in a timely manner.

For most of us, or some of us, at least, crime is an abstraction – something that happens to someone else. Crime, in other words, was something we were willing to tolerate as long as we could keep it at a distance. That, to put it mildly, is no longer the case.

I had two bicycles stolen from my garage in late September. It was a stormy night and the thieves had to get through a gate and a garage door. I had closed everything tightly with the oncoming storm in sight. But by morning the bikes were gone. I filed a police report, but never heard back from the police department.

A colleague at work had her catalytic converter stolen from her car just a few feet away, and directly visible from my office window in a fairly busy office parking lot in the middle of the day.

In other words, it is not so much that crime is ever-present, though it seems to be, but that criminals, in our society seem to consider themselves immune from any prosecution; public impunity has become the reigning law of our streets and stores.

Criminals high and low, with enough audacity and complicit legal representation, have become convinced that whatever laws there might be, do not apply to some.

Money, power or sometimes brute force, carry more influence than rule of law.

There are no winners in a system like this.

Laws are intended to protect both life and property.

When political leaders and neighborhood opportunists alike operate as if laws don’t apply, none of us will be safe.

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.– Frederick Douglass

It’s not just us. But it is us.

For a variety of reasons, crime is surging around the country – if not further.

Many factors have converged to bring us here.

In any market, there must be buyers and sellers. And a place for them to meet.

There is no point in stealing if one cannot use or sell whatever is stolen. Offer Up and Craigslist have become de facto marketplaces for everything from stolen diapers to laundry detergent. And much more.

Tacoma even has one man who “specializes” in stolen lawn mowers.

If you want to keep an eye on crime in and around Tacoma, follow Tacompton Files here:

Crime, like every social expression, from education to literacy, begins small, and expands, largely unnoticed, until it becomes the norm.