By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
I bet you didn’t even know Washington had over twenty large cities.
AdvisorSmith released its newest report on the “Safest Cities in Washington.” These numbers, from FBI records of reported crime, are from 2019.
From their research, they discovered that Tacoma is the #24 safest large city in Washington. For their research purposes, a large city was one with a population of over 50,000.
By Asian standards, Tacoma is not a large city – it’s barely a city compared to the world’s largest urban centers where a million – if not five million – is a baseline for a modern full-sized city.
Tacoma, by many measures, especially how likely it is for anyone of us to know either the victim or the perpetrators of any given crime (or the arresting officers, or even the lawyers or the judges) is more like a small town, than a “large city”.
Crime is no abstraction in such a community – most of us have first-hand knowledge and experience with petty – or worse – crime – and its many layers of repercussions and complications.
To make sense of the big picture, the research team examined crime reports from 180 cities within Washington state.
This included 94 small cities with fewer than 10,000 residents, 61 midsize cities with between 10,000 and 50,000 residents, and 25 large cities with over 50,000 residents.
Crime scores were calculated for each city and the cities were ranked to find the safest (and not-so-safe) places in Washington.
Here are some statistics that show that Tacoma should aspire to be a little closer to average:
Tacoma had a total crime score of 117.9, which was above the average of 64.3 in large Washington cities with over 100,000 residents.
Tacoma’s violent crime rate was 20.2 per 1000 residents, compared with an average of 12.7 per 1000 in large Washington cities.
The city’s property crime rate was 52.2 per 1000 residents. Statewide, the average property crime rate in large cities was 32.2 per 1000.
As you look at the survey, you’ll note that Tacoma is 24th – and its neighbor, Lakewood, is 23rd. Seattle is 22nd.
Tacoma’s historic rival, and closest match in terms of population is Spokane – which is 25th of 25.
Among large cities in the State of Washington with over 50,000 residents, the average crime score was 64. Crime scores ranged between 10 and 127 for large cities in the state.
The safest large city in Washington was Sammamish. East of Seattle (and even Bellevue) Sammamish is on a high-elevation plateau. It has one of the highest median incomes in the nation for a city of its size.
The large city with the most reported crime in Washington, barely (but thankfully for us) nudging Tacoma out of, ahem, last place, was Spokane.
You can see the complete study and the rest of the large, mid-range and small cities here: https://advisorsmith.com/data/safest-cities-in-washington.
If you look closely, you’ll see a few surprises, a few examples of what you might have expected and maybe even a few questions.
For example, if crime is measured on a per capita basis (crimes per 1,000 residents, in this study) you’d think that crime would be fairly evenly distributed no matter what the population size of the city.
Spokane in 2019 had 29.5 violent crimes per 1,000 and 59.2 property crimes per 1,000 residents.
(Tacoma had 20.3 and 52.2 respectively)
In contrast, Sammamish had 1.7 and 6.0.
The highest rates of midsized cities were held by Sumner, 10.9 violent crimes per 1,000 and 43.9 property crimes per 1,000 residents while the highest rates in small cities (held by Algona) were 6.0 and 17.5.
The lowest rates of midsized cities were held by Camas which had 2.6 violent crimes per 1,000 and 9.1 property crimes per 1,000 residents.
The safest small city in Washington State was Colville with 6.9 violent crimes per 1,000 and 9.1 property crimes per 1,000 residents.
Larger cities not only have more crime numerically, but also statistically.
Crimes reported include rape, robbery, murder, assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The crimes analyzed were from the calendar year 2019.
As you might guess, there are multiple factors at work in any given city.
Relative isolation, mobility, income and education opportunities and age distribution are all factors in community cohesion – or its absence.
Crime is much like almost every other behavior from voting to healthy eating; we do what those around us do.
Petty crime, like jogging or reading, is self-perpetuating; the more we do it, the more those around us do it, and the more those around us do it, the more we are likely to do it.
Tacoma, for better or worse (I’d say worse – much worse) is off to a head-start in terms of crime, and not just petty crime, for the calendar year of 2021.
This is one area (a sensitive one if you know much about the history of Tacoma) where I’d like to see Tacoma be below average.
Some cynics could assert that Tacoma has a not-so-positive image when it comes to crime.
This can be a hard reputation to shake off. But it will only be left behind if we actually do leave it behind.
I know people in King County who are literally afraid to come to Tacoma – not certain neighborhoods, but anywhere in Tacoma.
This is, to put it mildly, not how to run a city.
Tacoma is not alone, of course.
If you look at this survey, you might be shocked (but not surprised) to see how many of the not-safest cities are in Pierce County – and how few of the safest are within the borders of Pierce County.
It is not our imagination. We have a crime problem – and, by any standard, it seems to be getting worse.
I, for one, will be glad to see Tacoma – and Pierce County – close to the bottom of lists like this. I’d love to see Tacoma leaving behind this particular aspect of its identity, and become noted for being one of the “safest” – not “least safe” cities in our state.
But I do have to end with a heartfelt “Thank you!” to Spokane. Without Spokane, it could be us at the bottom.