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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Police say Tacoma Mall is a violent-crime hot spot

A police office guards an entrance to the Tacoma Mall on Nov. 26, 2021. Gunshots rang out in the shopping center on Black Friday of that year.  (Craig Sailor/(Tacoma) News Tribune)
By Jared Brown (Tacoma) News Tribune

TACOMA – Thousands of people visit the Tacoma Mall without incident each year to shop or eat, but the Police Department said last month the property is one of its most vexing hot spots for street violence and has made the area a focus of its plan to reduce crime.

On Wednesday evening, the mall made national headlines with news that Tacoma police had arrested former Seattle Supersonics legend Shawn Kemp on suspicion of drive-by shooting in connection to reports of gunfire in a parking lot shortly before 2 p.m. Kemp later was released Thursday without being charged pending further investigation.

Police announced an altercation between people in two vehicles led to gunfire. Q13 has reported people close to Kemp said he was acting in self-defense.

In recent years, the mall has seen the highest number of violent street crime reports – defined by the Police Department as non-domestic -violence homicides, aggravated assaults, robberies and other weapons violations – in the city since January 2020, according to an analysis of crime statistics by The News Tribune.

Ninety-one violent street-crime incidents were reported at the mall’s address through the end of last year, data show. The Tacoma Rescue Mission had the second -most reports connected to its address, with 55. The South Hosmer Street Quality Inn and St. Joseph Medical Center had 49 a piece.

Of the incidents at the mall since 2020, 16 involved aggravated assaults and 69 were robberies, with at least 30 of the robberies involving weapons, according to Police Department data. One incident involved gunfire damaging property.

The Police Department remains in Phase 1 of its plan to reduce violent street crime: high-visibility hot-spot patrols. The strategy involves police officers, primarily those who volunteer to work overtime, parking with their lights flashing at hot spots, the majority of which are commercial properties.

According to the Police Department, crime reports have decreased in areas where officers perform hot-spot “treatments,” but recent data show evidence oaf some violence being displaced to surrounding areas.

Police Chief Avery Moore said last month that the plan – which he recommended to city officials after implementing a nearly identical strategy while working in Dallas in 2021 – is working as he envisioned, though crime reports remain at “unacceptable” levels.

The union representing rank-and-file officers criticized the plan in November, writing in a letter, “TPD’s artificially narrow focus on statistical improvements in crime rates in specific locations misleads the public into believing crime is down citywide.”

University of Washington Tacoma criminologists who spoke with The News Tribune last year also cast doubt on the plan and said the early phases prioritize short-term impact over when the focus should be on addressing root causes of crime.

Police officials say they are studying one of more than a dozen hot spots to pilot Phase 2, which will involve citywide partnerships and disrupting other geographic factors they say lead to crime, such as blight abatement and better lighting. The Department declined to say whether the hot spot under consideration was the Tacoma Mall.