DUPONT, Wash. — Cities in Washington state are facing a crisis as crime continues to rise and local law enforcement agencies struggle to keep up in the wake of low staffing and trouble hiring police officers.
Even cities like DuPont, just south of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Pierce County, are feeling the trickle-down effect.
“Smaller communities like DuPont that are historically safe, that historically have low crime rates are not immune to some of the impacts that our larger metropolitan areas are experiencing," said DuPont Police Chief Doug Newman.
King County has already seen more incidents of gun violence this year than in all of 2020, with an almost 50% increase. Larger cities in Pierce County, like Tacoma, have also seen an increase in homicides, assaults and motor vehicle thefts.
Newman said combating crime has become more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic and as law enforcement faces a public trust crisis.
"We also are dealing with new sweeping police reform legislation in the state which my officers on a daily basis are trying to, in good faith, adhere to and follow," said Newman.
DuPont is not seeing the increase in violent crime that some other metropolitan areas are, but the city has seen a 47% increase in car prowls and break-ins from October 2020 to October of this year.
"We really provide easy access for people who need targets of opportunity or look for criminal targets of opportunity for property crimes within our city," said Newman. "They can come into our city through I-5, they can exit through I-5 and they are in and out relatively quickly."
Newman said vehicle theft has also increased as well as domestic violence.
On top of that, DuPont police officers are noticing many drivers aren't stopping when officers are trying to initiate traffic stops, creating larger issues as police try to investigate and stop crimes.
"I do think that the environment, not just one thing but many factors, are creating a more emboldened criminal, a more empowered criminal to engage and victimize on people who don't deserve to be victims," said Newman.
To combat crime, DuPont police are using data-driven enforcement to pin down times and locations where they can strategically place their resources.
The department is also working with other local jurisdictions and has been in discussion with DuPont city leaders to come up with plans to hire more staff.