On the heels of Delaware Governor Markell’s State of the State address where he spoke about the need for more youth services after the shooting death of a 16-year-old boy in Wilmington last summer, another teen is gunned down in the city streets over the weekend.
Police are investigating Wilmington’s first homicide of the year, the shooting of 16-year-old Ahkee Flonnory of Wilmington, who was found lying on the ground in the area of E. 24th Street on Saturday evening. A woman was also shot and treated at a local hospital.
A makeshift memorial marks the site where the incident happened, a reminder that the city has many obstacles when it comes to combating violent crimes.
Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams, who has maintained a no-nonsense stance on violent crime, said the city will combat violence with more aggressive policing.
“I’ve had my top commanders in my office this morning and I gave them an order to get on the street and get our people out on the street and we are going to start more aggressive policing until we put our plan in action,” said Williams. “We have a new police plan coming, it will be up and running very soon, I have a consultant and a professor that’s assigned to the Wilmington Police Department. As I stated during the campaign, that we would be working on. Once I have this plan up and running, you’re going to see some immediate changes.
In an effort to combat violence and crime, particularly among the state’s youth, the governor has proposed $2.2 million in grant opportunities for cities to develop after school and summer programs to keep youth out of trouble.
“We know what after-school and summer programs do for kids,” said the Governor during his State of the State address. “Research has demonstrated that they improve academic performance, reduce drop-out rates, reduce depression, improve self-control and self-esteem, and prevent risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use and juvenile crime.”
During last week’s budget proposal, Lt. Governor Matt Denn outlined details of the grant, explaining that programs interested in applying for grant funds will have to meet specific criteria.
“Some of the criteria are having a curriculum for the program,” explained Denn. “That could be either a traditional academic curriculum, it could be arts, cultural based, it could be agriculture based. We want the programs who apply for this money to have some sort of set curriculum. We’re going to be concerned with student safety, whether the program is located in the school, whether transportation provides for that, that’s one of the factors.”
He added that applicants who receive grants will need to be trained and certified in the state’s lifeline program which educates teachers and mentors on suicide prevention and detecting depression.
Mayor Williams also supports the idea of more youth services, a topic he’s been passionate about throughout his campaign and election victory, but said money should be earmarked for areas with the most need.
“I don’t think people should have to put in for grants and sit by and wait for it to happen,” said Williams. “I think the stress areas should be looked at immediately and that money should be synced to those areas such as the city of Wilmington itself.”
Williams is currently working on a plan with the city’s parks and recreation department to develop more youth services.
“It’s about tutoring children, turning their lives around, putting them in a tutorial program, getting them involved in things in their community, getting them involved in job training and letting them understand that carrying a firearm is nothing but sudden death or going to prison,” said Williams during his Inaugural address earlier this month. “These are the things now we’re going to be doing with our youth.”
While these long-term programs are in the early stages of development, Mayor Williams said police will “work tirelessly” to find the suspects involved in the shooting. Anyone with information about the shooting should contact the Wilmington Police Department at (302) 654-5151.