Pierce County on record pace for murders

Apr 3, 2018, 5:47 AM | Updated: 2:46 pm
Pierce County deputy...
A Pierce County Sheriff's Dept. deputy walks under crime scene tape in front of a home in Spanaway where authorities say a member of the U.S. Air Force, who was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, fatally shot his two young children and their mother before killing himself earlier this year. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Over the first three months of 2018, the murder rate in Pierce County nearly tripled when compared to last year, according to county records.

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Authorities are at a loss to explain why.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said he hopes it is an outlier and that the rate will diminish.

“All of us around here are saying this is a bit of an anomaly,” he said. “Here’s a fact that will take place: As we grow in this county — as we approach a million people — we will have spikes like this and they will be closer together.”

First reported in the Tacoma News Tribune, the current tally of 23 murders nearly triples the nine homicides recorded through the first 81 days of 2017.

That pace, if maintained for the next nine months, would lead to the most violent year in two decades.

Pastor said even if the rate drops to normal levels, the county is unlikely to stop at the 2017 total of 38. And while this year’s murder rate is high so far, it is unlikely to reach the peak level of 66 murders in 1992.

The King County murder rate climbed for 2017 after remaining largely steady during four years prior. In 2017, the county saw 74 homicides compared to 66 in 2016, 67 in 2015 and 63 in 2014.

Both counties are experiencing an economic boom. The violent crime rate, paradoxically, rises during those periods, Pastor said. People get displaced, he said, envy builds and tensions rise.

The vast majority of homicides, he said, happen between people who know each other and have a dispute. That is the case for nearly every homicide in Pierce County so far.

Sheriff: Staff ‘could double in size’ and still be short

“None of these murders are random murders,” he said. “There is not somebody loose in the county who is preying on county residents.

“(These) are people who know one another, who have disputes with one another, or there is an issue of mental illness, issues of drugs, but the victims are usually known to the perpetrator.”

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Pierce County on record pace for murders