Candidate for mayor of Wilmington calls for new approaches in improving public safety

A longtime member of Wilmington City Council, who is running for mayor, has outlined a public safety plan that focuses on community initiatives as well as crime suppression.

Saying Wilmington can’t arrest its way out of crime, Councilman Kevin Kelley has unveiled a program that would direct police resources to the parts of the city most impacted by violent crime and drug dealing.  “If we keep doing the same things we have done, then we’re going to have the same disappointing results,” Kelley said at a news conference held on a street corner in the Hilltop neighborhood. 

Kelley said he would pursue a redeployment plan he sought several years ago as a member of city council, to dedicate officers to specific neighborhoods and have them remain there for the entirety of their shift.  He also would pursue more citizen engagement in public safety through an interactive online crime database, and through social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  Kelley mentioned Hilltop, Hedgeville, West Center City, Southeast 9th Ward, Prices Run and the East Side as areas that would get special attention. 

Another part of Kelley’s plan would involve the use of community intervention specialists, who would be trained in conflict resolution, and would work within the neighborhoods to hopefully get troubled young people to turn their lives around.  He also would expand the roles of probation officers and bail supervisors in overseeing suspects and offenders before, and after, their trials. 

Steven Colon, a local young man described by Kelley as a potential community intervention specialist, said more safe havens and more programs are needed for young people in the neighborhoods, “so we can get ’em off the street and have some place for them to go, so they can get some of that idle time off their hands.”

Kelley strongly suggested that he would replace Wilmington Police Chief Michael Szczerba if he wins the election for mayor.  “You need new leadership.  You need new vision.  You need a new attitude.  And, you need new accountability to run the police department,” Kelley said.

Kelley is one of several Democrats competing in the September 11th primary.  Mayor James Baker is wrapping up his third term.  Others in the race include Rev. Derrick Johnson, State Representative Dennis P. Williams, State Senator Robert Marshall, Mayor Baker’s Chief of Staff Bill Montgomery, and local bail bondsman Robert Bovell.

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