Data shows budget hotel cluster has become a hotspot for violence and crime in Tacoma

The south Tacoma cluster of budget hotels near where a woman was shot early Tuesday morning has become an outsized crime magnet for the city, according to data reviewed by FOX 13 News.

South Hosmer Street between 84th and 90th, where the hotels are located, was the scene of 1,355 criminal incidents as mapped by the City of Tacoma between 2014 and December 2021. Taken together, the records reflect a staggering variety of alleged crimes at these locations: kidnappings, sex traffickingdrug trafficking, illegal sale of firearms, robbery, shootingsfraud, assault and murder. While the tool only shows 10 data points along roughly half a mile of road, each point is linked to dozens, if not hundreds, of police reports. For example, the data point near the former location of Dickeys Barbecue Pit is linked to 150 separate incidents.

By comparison, the number of crimes drops by more than 90% when you look at just one city block. During the same 7-year period, the same portion of southern Alaska (including side streets) had only 120 incidents according to this data. Walking a little further east, while South Ainsworth was not crime-free, there were still only 95 incidents on the map.

Law enforcement experts point to two features that make South Hosmer Street a great place to commit crimes: easy access from Interstate 5 and a choice of seven different motels, inns and travel lodges. The City of Tacoma already recognizes that hotels and motels can become trouble spots for illegal behavior if mishandled, but the Center for Problem Oriented Policing at Arizona State University has collected several studies on Trouble in budget motels specifically. These include a review of “Take back our boulevard”, a crackdown by the Tukwila Police Department targeting a handful of nuisance hotels that led to a dramatic drop in local crime.

Like the concentration of law breaking along South Hosmer, an analysis of police reports in Tukwila from 2008 to 2012 “showed a high number of incidents occurring along a 1.5 mile section of the boulevard Tukwila International (TIB)” near nine motels. According to the report, “several of these motels were suspected of being havens for people engaged in prostitution, drug trafficking and violent crimes associated with these activities.” Three of the nine motels in particular, all along the same block, were among the “top five problem locations.”

A year-long investigation by local and federal agents found that “the three motels – all owned by family members – were being used by the owners to facilitate and profit from criminal activity. The investigation found resulted in landlord arrests and federal seizures of motels….One year after the motels were closed, data showed a 12% drop in violent crime citywide and a 40% drop in violent crime along of the TIB corridor.

Other cities in Washington have closed problematic hotels, declaring them harmful properties – including Seattle and more recently Pasco. Victoria Woodards, mayor of Tacoma, asked if the city should consider the same plan on South Hosmer Street.

“So it’s not something that’s on our file right now. That’s not to say we wouldn’t consider it, but what we’re currently using is our nuisance code. And thanks to our nuisance code and on enforcing the code, we went in and made changes. In some cases, close motels for a period of time,” Woodards said.

South Hosmer Street is in District Five, led by City Councilman Joe Bushnell for the past four months. He said cleaning up Hosmer was not a quick fix, but rather long-term investments to revitalize him.

“I think of Hosmer as a neighborhood, as its own business district, but traditionally in the past it hasn’t been thought of as such. are happening there all over the city, and we can organize the community, come up with a plan, and really execute that plan to attract those investments and really transform the neighborhood,” Bushnell said.

“It’s really a low opportunity area. So we need to make more investments in that particular area. But the problem is, do you get the investments before you solve the crime? Or do you solve the crime and then you get investments ?” Woodards said.

City leaders said they look forward to hearing Tacoma Police Chief Avery Moore’s crime update report as they take a closer look at Tacoma’s hotspots, including including South Hosmer Street. The chief must submit the report on April 19 at the meeting of the municipal council.

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