Delaware group meets to come up with new ways to fight Wilmington violence problem

 (Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

A group focused on creating safer streets in Wilmington came together Tuesday night to hear ideas on how to tackle the rising crime in the city.

“The problem that we have right now is this room is filled up with the wrong people,” said Natacha Ricks of Wilmington during the Wilmington Public Safety Strategies Commission’s first meeting.

Ricks was among a small group of people at the YMCA on Walnut Street to hear from the Commission. The Wilmington resident was hoping to see more young people present. Consultants such as the Police Foundation of Washington, D.C. and Vigilant Resources International of New York were also at the meeting and presented a framework of what will happen over the next few weeks.

“In addition to looking at the crime data, in addition to looking at the patrol deployment or staffing issues and the department organizational issues we’ll also be looking at the best practices in other jurisdictions” said James Burch of the Police Foundation.

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According to Burch, the goal is to focus on places that are similar to Wilmington’s size like Camden, NJ and Baltimore, MD. It’s also important to not model current anti-violence programs in Wilmington.

For an example, Wilmington is already a part of the Violence Reduction Network, a nationwide initiative to help the city with resources to address crime that the Police Foundation is aware of.

“We will make sure we are not duplicating work that the chief is already involved in,” Burch said.

Longtime resident Dwight Davies expressed concerns about the commission and what the group can actually execute.

“I’ve participated in a lot of strategic plans, and they’re all fine until it’s time to implement,” Davies said.

However, Police Chief Bobby Cummings who sits on the commission welcomed the community input and said it’s vital.

“We all have to engage in the solutions, without the engagement we will continue to do things the same way we always done them,” Cummings said.

The commission is lead by Lew Schiliro, Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, and Joseph Bryant, Jr., Director of Public Safety for New Castle County. Also on the commission are community members, retired police officers, business professionals as well as Chief Bobby Cummings of the Wilmington Police Department and State Prosecutor Kathy Jennings of the Attorney General’s Office.

Meanwhile, the next meeting is scheduled for March 10th. After several more sessions, the commission will present its recommendations to the police department.

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