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Saturday, September 24, 2016 This Week's Paper

City councilman fights to improve property crime investigations

"Only eight to 11 percent of property crimes in Tacoma being investigated," says Tacoma City Councilman Robert Thoms.

Nothing in this world is more precious to LeShaun Alexander than his two little girls. The single dad works as a carpenter so when thieves stole his tools, which he left at a work site overnight in East Tacoma, he was devastated.
“My girls, they look up to me because I get up and I go to work every day,” says Alexander.
The tools are worth at least $2,000. He says officers came and dusted for prints and while Tacoma Police confirm they took a burglary report, City Councilman Robert Thoms says more needs to be done.
“I’d like to see, first and foremost, the number of property crimes be reduced in the city of Tacoma,” he said.
Thoms says he had a task force review Tacoma’s residential property crime, including burglaries and car prowls.
“Last year and into this year, the state of Washington was ranked number one for property crimes and the city of Tacoma was number one in the state,” he said.
Among the findings in the report, presented in March, Thoms discovered that only eight to 11 percent of property crimes in Tacoma are actually investigated.
“That means some 90 percent are more than likely not investigated and that just simply won’t stand for me.”
Thoms is not only looking to add more officers to the force, but also potentially change the way property crimes are investigated.
"For most Tacomans such crimes will be the only crime that happens to them and it is a tremendous violation of their sense of safety. Tacomans deserve to feel safe and I will look to increase investigators and cops in this budget to let criminals know - Tacoma will catch you if you steal from our citizens.”
In a response to the criticism, the Tacoma Police Department says: “Unfortunately, property crimes have a low solvability rate. The Tacoma Police Department chooses which crimes to investigate based on the probability of solving the crime. Each report is read and, based on the ability to investigate any further, a case may not be investigated.”
For example, if a car is broken into and property stolen and there are no witnesses and no evidence for forensics to process, the chances of catching anyone are very low.
"The same crime with a fingerprint or a witness to identify someone would be investigated. The police department is working with minimum staffing presently, so detectives are assigned based on the probability of catching someone. Even beyond identifying who the suspect is, the department also has to work with the prosecutor's office to attempt a conviction. So, property crimes are not investigated the same way that a person's crime is, where a victim can testify to what happened.”
Meanwhile, LeShaun is just trying to make ends meet. He’s borrowing tools from friends to get the jobs done to support his family.

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