No escaping Wilmington violence in 2013

     (John Jankowski/for NewsWorks)

    (John Jankowski/for NewsWorks)

    We are hearing a lot about the top stories of the year, political and otherwise. I’m sure by now you have heard most, if not all of them. I have my own list. Hopefully, you will read it and then send me yours.

    As I look around the greater Wilmington area the most pressing story of the year could have been written last year or even in 2011. I’m talking about the level of violence in Wilmington.

    In Delaware, the story of the economy with its ups and downs (and there was a lot of both) takes a back seat to crime. It’s my opinion that there is a criminal rampage taking place in Wilmington.

    Published reports say a day doesn’t go by when someone (including police officers) are shot. The city’s hot spots are getting hotter every day.

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    A recent News Journal headline read, “…Wilmington is mired in violence.” According to an analysis of the FBI’s uniformed crime report, Wilmington was the third most violent of 450 cities of comparable size in 2012. It’s the 8th most violent city of nearly 750 cities with a population of over 50,000.

    This makes Wilmington worse that 99% of the whole country. The News Journal goes on to report major cities, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Chicago, and even Miami had their citizens exposed to less crime than Wilmington. Only Detroit, Memphis, Oakland, and St. Louis are seen as more violent than Delaware’s largest city.

    The Wilmington violent crime rate is 1,703.5 crimes per 100,000 residents. That’s 4.5 times the national average.

    Wilmington City Council President Theo Gregory, who has a law office in the 22nd block of North Market Street, says he is distressed that the city he grew up in is a place where gunfire, holdups, and beatings are so common place. He says what is worse is that that people seem to look the other way when a crime is committed.

    He adds, these statistics provide a stark reminder of the tough job facing those protecting residents from the criminal element roaming the streets in the poorer black and Latino neighborhoods.

    Attorney General Beau Biden and other local law enforcement officials say the primary reason for Delaware’s overall crime rate is the bloodshed in Wilmington. A city that has 8% of the population and 25% of the crime is going drive up the overall rate. That does mean most towns have crime rates below the average. Dover, Newark, Milford, and Seaford tend to push those rates towards the high side, though.

    Wilmington had 25 homicides last year. There are 18 this year and that includes the 2 killed in February at the New Castle County Courthouse. It does show an improvement. Every little bit of good news does help.

    While Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams boasted about a lower crime rate for the first 6 months of the year, he can’t over look the 151 shooting victims this year.

    He called that unacceptable and threatened to make changes in the police department. That led some to believe his hand picked Police Chief Christine Dunning was on the hot seat, a charge he denied.

    That brought out comments from Wilmington City Council and the police union to say the mayor was meddling in department affairs.

    While Williams did back Dunning he did not offer the same level of support for Inspectors Bobby Cummings or Victor Ayala. He’s also been slow to fully outline the tactics he believes will control crime in Wilmington. He says his administration will police aggressively, build stronger neighborhoods, and create opportunities for our youth.

    As Williams put it, “I’m committed to attacking the problem from all angels.”  To add urgency to the problem in 2013, we have Wilmington City Council calling for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to study the “pandemic” of black on black gun violence.

    Most of those arrested are black. They also have lengthy criminal records. It occurs to me similar research should be done city wide to stop any similar violent crimes before they occur. Don’t wait for more blood shed. It is something to consider.

    I know there are some other important stories of note, but to me taking care of the big problems at home is the best way to start the conversation. Love to hear if you agree or disagree.

    John Watson is a long time Delaware talk show host. You can read his work here. You can also write him

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