New crime numbers are out for Wilmington, which paints a glimpse at Mayor Dennis Williams’ crime plan. Longtime talk-show host John Watson has some thoughts on where things stand.
Here is John Watson’s essayworks:
It looks like Mayor Dennis Williams is off to a good start in his first term of office. I’m sure you all remember him promising to a major reduction in the crime rate in Wilmington in the first six months of his term in office. It looks like he has done it or at least most of it.
Media reports tell us that the crime rate in Wilmington is down. Not just a little bit, but down by 24%. That’s the good news. The bad news is while the crime rate in our city has reduced by that number, the number of shootings has increased by 22%. It continues to beleaguer city streets.
But let’s get back to the good news. The News Journal reports that the over all decrease in crime includes some important offenses. There is 12 percent drop in violent offenses such as murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault. Now if that doesn’t make you feel a lot safer in our fair city I don’t know what will.
Being the realist that he has always been in dealing with the criminal element, Mayor Williams hasn’t called for the bands to play at a party signifying happy times are here to stay. Instead he cautions that there is a still lot of work to be done, saying he believes there a reduction in the shootings on Wilmington streets will take place due to city the refining its police deployment plans. He has said there will be reinforcements from the police academy. He wants to build on the 149 fire arms police have seized this year.
As the Mayor puts it, “We are driving crime down. We know things will get better”.
A look at the city’s crime rate shows that there have been six homicides since Mayor Williams took office, a 50 percent drop from last year, not including the two people killed in that New Castle County Courthouse shooting, which is a state building, not a city building. Just trying to keep the record straight.
Mayor Williams attributes the drop in crime to a more aggressive policing philosophy that calls for focusing on using nuisance laws to clean up our street corners and public places. And that’s some thing that could have been done a long time ago. The mayor cited their smarter deployment plan, taking officers from specialized divisions and putting them on patrol duty. The officers might not like that idea of patrolling our crime ridden streets, but isn’t that part of wearing the uniform?
Police Chief Christine Dunning is quoted as saying “We are aggressively addressing crime through a coordinated multi-jurisdictional approach that includes law enforcement involvement from local, state and federal levels”.
Statistics show Mayor Williams saw the biggest reduction in less serious offenses, which plummeted by over 2,300, a 28%. A third tier of crimes, such as suspicious persons or vehicles, fell by 44 percent, but that category includes less than 2 percent of all crimes in 2013.
Meanwhile City Councilman Mike Brown Sr. wasn’t very impressed by all of this. He is quoted as saying, “I am just not convinced that these numbers tell the true story of crime in Wilmington, based on the number of shootings we have had this year, and based on the serious crime that citizens are witnessing in their communities. To focus on the less serious crimes paints a glowing picture of overall crime reduction doesn’t cut it in my book.”
Councilman Brown is chairman of the city council’s public safety committee and is known for his no none sense way of making his point of view to any and all who he decides to disagree with. I could have said those he attacks, but I didn’t want him to attack me too.
But seriously, apparently Councilman Brown forgot to consider the fact that arresting those committing those lesser crimes is sure to lead to bigger criminals being arrested eventually.
After all the Wilmington Police Department, can’t do every thing at one time and I’m sure all types of arrests are being made.
Another who disagree is Donald Morton, President of the Black Clergy Consortium, who says the deeper issues of unemployment and poverty connect to the over all problem and should not be over looked. He says. “The Mayor is doing as good a job as anyone can do, and perhaps the expectations and the bar were set rather high for him to make those kinds of impacts in such a short period of time.”
As for the Mayor he says the city is on the right track, pointing to our the new summer arts program as helping to keep kids occupied, a program to put community police officers in parks and citizens renewed comfort in reporting problems to police as all contributing factors to the reduction in the city’s crime rate.
The Mayor is ready to see more officers arriving from the current academy class, to help fill the loss of 27 officers to attrition. He says those young officers will be eager to prove themselves and make their own impact on crime. Mayor Williams says they will be in the line fire and that’s what he wants.
He is a former Police Officer in Wilmington and says he remembers what he was like when he was in the line of fire and could chase a burglar 15 blocks with out even being out of breath.
So lets all applaud Mayor Dennis Williams, who is now in the line of fire in a different arena, and seems to be winning the race.
Do you agree or disagree? Do you feel that Wilmington is a safer place to be in your neighborhood when you go shopping, visiting Rodney Square, or some of our parks? What about walking our streets at night? Do they feel safer now, than before? Or are you still staying home to avoid being a victim of collateral damage? It’s the kind of damage which happens to often in our streets and neighborhoods.
But for now, I think you should send a message to Mayor Dennis Williams, thanking him for putting us on the right path and making Wilmington a safer city.
John Watson is a Wilmington talk show host and observer of the Delaware scene. He invites you to comment to him here on newsworks.org or you can write him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.