Police share best ways to prevent break-ins as burglaries drop in Tacoma

TACOMA, Wash. — New data shows the number of burglaries in Tacoma went down by 33% in 2023 compared to 2022, and police reports show break-ins are down 10% this year.

That doesn’t mean break-ins aren’t happening at all, of course.

Carolyn, who didn’t want to use her last name, described to KIRO 7 how a burglar woke her up in her Tacoma bedroom last August, rummaging through items and mumbling to himself.

“I jump out of bed. He’s that close,” she said, stretching her arm out. “And that’s when I said, ‘May I help you?’”

She said she ran out of the room, out the back door, and onto their gravel driveway.

Carolyn said he shuffled out after her.

“That’s when I scream, ‘You get out of here right now!’” she said. “And then I ran back into the open gate in the house and locked the doors.”

Carolyn called her husband, who was staying with their daughter in town to help with their grandchild. Soon he and the police were at the house.

She discovered her keys were missing.

So were a pair of her husband’s shoes.

But how did the man get inside in the first place?

“The windows are locked,” she said. “We’re scratching our heads.”

Then one of the officers pointed out the dog door.

“And I go, ‘Of course. He got in through the dog door,’” Carolyn said.

Yes, the dog door their beloved dog Rudy uses to get to the backyard had been an entry point for a burglar.

Thieves are getting in other ways, too. Surveillance video shows a man and woman casing a home a couple of miles from Carolyn’s in September. Pierce County prosecutors say the man, whom they identify as Daniel Dobler, broke in. The homeowner told KIRO 7 he managed to break through the basement door. The video shows him leaving the house with bags in his hands. Dobler is now charged with burglary. The woman still needs to be identified.

They’re two of about 1500 burglaries last year, according to Tacoma Police data.

But that data reveals a decrease in break-ins.

“So, we’ve seen a little bit of a reduction here over the last year,” Tacoma Police Lieutenant Shawn Malott said. “I think that’s kind of a nationwide trend.”

Still, Seattle Police data shows burglary numbers are higher in the city during the first three months of this year over last year.

Malott credits officers for being more visible and showing the community how to prevent break-ins.

KIRO 7 asked him about ways people can make their homes tougher targets for thieves.

He said it starts with science, something called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

“So, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design has taught us that color temperature does make a difference,” Malott said, gesturing to the incandescent bulbs at the front of a house. “If you notice, it’s kind of that warm light. So, if you switch the bulbs to more of a cooler temperature, more of that blue tone, research has shown that people don’t want to hang out under that as much.”

“When you say color of light, that’s something I would never think about,” reporter Linzi Sheldon said.

Malott said cameras can prevent crimes and help police solve them, especially if they show all sides of a home. He recommends having them at the front and back entrances and at all corners of a house.

Just make sure they’re working, he cautioned, and that you know how to get the video.

Malott recommended using a dowel to block thieves from sliding windows all the way open. KIRO 7 found them listed for $3 to $10 online.

For doors, deadbolts are essential.

And while everyone loves privacy, Malott warned that trees and shrubs shouldn’t give thieves places to hide as they’re breaking in.

“In general, you want to keep all the landscaping below the window,” he said.

This Tacoma Police website lays out several other strategies for protecting a home.

Some examples include using gravel for landscaping around a home instead of beauty bark. The gravel makes a crunching noise that a homeowner or pet might hear. With the warmer weather, police remind people to make sure they close and lock all their windows when they leave the house.

“So statistically speaking, they’re going to look for an open window,” Malott said of burglars.

He emphasized the importance of getting to know your neighbors, as well.

“Knowing their routines, exchanging phone numbers, you know, that can be instrumental in people preventing crime,” he said.

“We changed all the locks,” Carolyn said of the aftermath of their break-in. They got a security system, cameras, and a started neighborhood watch group called Safe Streets. The most recent meeting had more than 30 people.

“Do you think it’s making a difference in terms of safety in your neighborhood?” Sheldon asked.

“Yeah! Well, I feel safer,” Carolyn said. “They talk about, it’s a village to raise a child. It’s a village to keep a village, too.”