In the 1980s, Tacoma’s Hilltop had a gritty reputation for gangs, drugs and crime. How much has the city changed since then?
A new 364 page report concludes gangs are expanding and evolving into criminal networks that are using social media tools to recruit new members, and engaging in a different kind of crime than the City of Destiny saw in the 80s and 90s.
While still driven by drugs, today’s gang criminals are more involved in identity theft, counterfeiting, money laundering and fencing stolen goods.
Tacoma’s population was about 198,000 last year, and five neighborhoods there are “disproportionately affected” by gang crime – South Tacoma, South End, Eastside, Central and New Tacoma.
The report says there are 651 gang members in the city, although the police department says that number is “likely far below” the actual number.
They’ve identified four major gangs, the Bloods, Crips, Nortenos and Surenos. Within those there are about 50 sub groups.
Most of the gang members are male and between the ages of 21 and 25, but about three percent of the gang members or associates are females.
Between January of 2009 and June of 2011 there were 2,227 gang-related crimes against people or property. The crimes included homicide, extortion, drug possession, robbery and kidnapping.
The city paid $50,000 for the assessment that includes a demographic breakdown of the city’s population, gang population and school students. Along with crime data, it looks at programs that might get Tacoma residents out of the gang lifestyle.
By LINDA THOMAS
Photo: East Tacoma Gang Graffiti