TACOMA, Wash. — Frustrations are soaring in the south end of Tacoma over property crime and issues with nearby homeless camps, prompting business owners to convene a meeting Thursday night to discuss possible solutions.

Members of the South Tacoma Neighborhood Business Association were joined by police and Tacoma City Councilmember Joe Bushnell to talk about what it will take to restore law and order to the area. Many of the participants said they are fed up with what they see as constant street crime.

“We have a criminal element here that is causing havoc in our community and it needs to be addressed,” said Venus Dergan, a south Tacoma resident and neighborhood activist.

While the unchecked crime was the predominant topic, the conversation often turned to the homeless camps that business owners said provide a refuge for criminals.

Paul Etsekson, who owns commercial property in south Tacoma, said truly destitute people living on the streets are being used as human shields and “criminals are hiding amongst them.”

Residents met Thursday night to discuss mounting concerns about rising crime in south Tacoma.

The business district has applied for a security enhancement grant through the city to beef up their private security with a second patrol car.

“They’ve already done a trial period with Raven Security,” said Tim Marlowe with the Cross District Association, the organization helping to coordinate grant applications. “They’ve seen some changes for having the presence here and honestly they just want more presence.”

However, Dergan said the grant money won’t fix the most pressing issues.

“The grant money is an option but it’s after the fact,” Dergan said. “We want something pro-active (and) preventative.”

Police said they understand the frustrations and the chief is working on a larger crime strategy.

They also said they would follow up on some specific concerns raised during the meeting, but business owners feel like they are running out of time.

“Our tenants, their businesses, their livelihoods, are being destroyed,” Etsekson said.

Other neighborhood districts in Tacoma are also getting ready to submit applications for security enhancement grants.

The city has $250,000 available for things like security cameras, lighting or private patrols. The grants will be issued to to reimburse business groups for the safety improvements they make.

Source: https://komonews.com/news/local/south-tacoma-businesses-struggle-with-property-crime-homeless-camps