Fourteen people have been killed this year in homicides in unincorporated Pierce County. This unusually high number of homicides is happening at a time when the department is short-staffed, according to Nick Hausner, Chief of Services for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.
"What the impact is, is that the community has to wait longer for response, even for in-progress crimes. Which reduces our likelihood of solving those crimes," said Hausner.
Lew Cox can speak to what it is like to be an advocate for the victims of violent crime. He lost his daughter, Carmon Cox, in 1987.
"Carmon was 22 years old when she was murdered," said Cox. "I searched for help myself and it wasn't there."
He turned his anguish into action and started Violent Crime Victim Services. In the last couple decades, Cox and his team have been able to work with more than 1,000 families.
"Somebody else validates what they are going through, and gives them some hope. We see that happen day after day after day," Cox explained.
Wednesday night, Violent Crime Victim Services worked with members of the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office, as they took over a local Roundtable Pizza. Part of the proceeds earned will go toward helping families who have lost loved ones to homicide.
One of the customers was Memarie Dhillon, who lost her 8-year-old daughter, Kelsie.
"In April 2003, she was murdered by her father," said Dhillon. "I had dreams and hopes for her, and it got cut short. It's a pain you can't even describe."
At another table, Lisa Moore talked about losing her brother, Randy Ferguson.
"My brother was killed by his wife in 2006," said Moore. "Lew Cox was my victim advocate and walked us through the whole court process."
Moore was so inspired by the process, she now works for Violent Crime Victim Services. Dhillon says she also received support from the non-profit organization.
"I can't imagine where I'd be right now if it wasn't for Lew," said Dhillon.
What started with one grieving father has grown into an offer for help and hope to families in need.
As for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, there are a dozen positions they hope to fill as soon as possible.