(The Center Square) – Gun crime trends in unincorporated Pierce County have officials worried.

According to data presented to the Pierce County Public Safety Committee, in 2024, there have been 58 crimes involving firearms in unincorporated Pierce County through March 2024. There were 20 cases in March alone.

“That’s really concerning seeing these numbers because I think it’s pretty high,” Pierce County Councilmember Paul Herrera said at Monday’s committee meeting.

Herrera pointed out that the 20 cases in March were alarming on their own. However, comparing the first three months of 2024 to the previous three years show that the firearm-involved crime rate has dropped.

The first three months of 2022 averaged 37 firearm involved crimes and 29 in 2023, whereas the average for the first three months of 2024 were 19.

There have been six homicides in unincorporated Pierce County this year as of Monday.

“This is serious. We need to pull together as a community and keep crime under control,” Pierce County Chief of Patrol Patti Jackson said.

Jackson noted that crime in unincorporated Pierce County increased dramatically after the Blake decision in summer 2021 that ruled the state’s felony drug possession law was unconstitutional. That was fixed as part of a 2023 permanent legislative solution to address the criminality of drug possession and use in Washington.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department serves more than 400,000 residents in unincorporated parts of the county, the second largest population behind the City of Seattle with more than 720,000.

The sheriff’s department’s current staffing rate is 0.54 deputies per 1,000 residents. According to the department, it is the second lowest staffed law enforcement agency in Washington. University Place Police Department has the lowest staffing rate at 0.45 per 1,000 residents.

There have been 78 new hires within the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office from 2022 through 2024. There have been 12 hires so far this year alone.

Jackson noted that the department also has 37 new hires in the training process.

The Center Square previously reported on the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department’s Mountain Detachment currently works out of the basement of Eatonville City Hall. The county is currently exploring potential locations to construct a new facility for the mountain detachment.