The Wilmington Police Dept. needs a homicide unit

 Wilmington police respond to a recent shooting incident (John Jankowski/for NewsWorks)

Wilmington police respond to a recent shooting incident (John Jankowski/for NewsWorks)

Veteran Wilmington talk-show host John Watson has followed the problem of violence in the city. Today, he shares his thoughts with NewsWorks

Here are John’s thoughts:

The News-Journal wants to know if the residents of Wilmington think the city should create a specialized homicide unit within the Wilmington Police Department.

I think their answer is “yes.” Mine is.

For its size, The City of Wilmington is one of the most violent cities in the nation, worse than several much-larger cities. It seems to me and a lot of others that city leaders should stop draging their feet and create a homicide unit.

Last year, Mayor Dennis Williams created a Three-Sector Strategy for the Wilmington Police Department, assigning officers to patrol exclusively in a given area. This deployment strategy was intended to reduce violence, solve more crimes and create better relationships between police and community.

What are we finding?

A Wilmington record for gun violence was set last year when 127 shooting were reported. According to published police reports, the city has experienced seven homicides so far this year, compared to five at the same point last year.

One has to wonder, what happened to the mayor’s Three Sector Strategy for fighting crime in Wilmington?

I hope, and I’m sure you do too, that there will be an improvement in the crime statistics in our city. My area of the city is not a crime hot-spot yet, but criminal activity has increased to the point of being a concern.

If Williams and the City Council would listen to the cries from city residents for the creation of a homicide unit, the feeling among us is that things will get better.

Wilmington might no longer be one of America’s most violent cities.

The root cause

Published reports say that a new group, Sweep the Streets, is working with the Delaware Crime Stoppers.

Sweep the Streets, which was created in response to the fatal shooting of Jermaine Goins Jr, in 2013, is leading the effort to encourage the city to create a specialized homicide unit. 

While he supports the idea, Interim WPD Chief Bobby Cummings said that his department doesn’t have the manpower or the financial resources needed to create the unit. 

Cummings said that the city is 14 officers below its authorized number of 320 sworn-personnel. He said the WPD would need at least 342 officers before considering a full-time homicide unit, but acknowledged that even this amount might not be enough.

Sweep the Streets member Shondia Cummings said her organization is trying to advocate for the victims of unsolved homicide cases by creating petitions and by meeting with Williams and with members of City Council.

Cummings, of no relation to Chief Cummings, said she doesn’t believe the argument that the city doesn’t have the funds or the manpower for a homicide unit. She noted that Williams called on City Council to approve a budget amendment that allows the city to collateralize its debts to pay off $1.2 million in unforeseen overtime and snow-removal costs.  

“You can request money for this, but we don’t have a homicide unit? What are you going to do about that?” she asked. “The root cause to the killings are the killers, and you have to get the root cause to stop what they are doing.”

Makes sense to me. What about you?

Councilman Bud Freel said that he is open to discussing on the matter. From what I know, he is a good man.

“What you are looking for is the best way to operate for the citizens,” he said.

Snow removal and overtime pay cause no bloodshed. It’s about time we do whatever is required to stop the violence and prevent another family from suffering.

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