With 16 shootings and 4 homicides in Wilmington so far this year, city leaders unveiled a set of initiatives that are part of a new public safety crime plan.
Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning laid out the 10-point approach that includes putting more “boots on the ground,” as she put it, to not only address nuisance complaints of people loitering on corners, but also to disrupt “open air” drug markets.
“We know that in order to deter crime, it is very, very important to have a high police uniformed presence on our street,” said Chief Dunning.
While so-called ‘jump out squads’ targeting drug corners weren’t named specifically, the plan includes establishing a “mobile strike force comprised of experienced officers with tested decision making skills.”
Dunning says her department will also identify and train ‘community specialists’ whose jobs will be to build and strengthen relationships with residents.
“These neighborhood specialists will be trained in the ‘situational policing model,'” Dunning said. “‘Situational policing’ recognizes that each neighborhood in Wilmington is unique. They have different crime problems… Our community neighborhood specialists will work together, coordinate resources and attack those concerns and crime problems through different strategies.”
But Chief Dunning says a critical piece needed to ensure the plan’s success is to stop the revolving door for criminal offenders by demanding bail and sentencing reform from state lawmakers.
“We must get rid of this low cash bail or the ability to plead down gun charges. It is essential because we don’t want to make it easy for criminals to return back to our streets,” Dunning said.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden held a news conference today introducing legislation that would double bonds set for repeat offenders; however, similar legislation introduced in the past failed passage.
Other parts of the plan include:
Establishing a street crime unit, comprised of patrol officers, detectives and vice officers who will respond to felonies in-progress.
Expanding the city’s gun unit and re-establish a relationship with the ATF, which has committed to providing federal officers and other resources to address illegal gun trafficking within city limits
Upgrading technology-based tools and installing cameras in squad cars and attaching portable cameras to officers’ uniforms
Retired Wilmington Police officer Rich Iardella is now a consultant with the city. He says the new public safety plan incorporates several crime fighting methods, describing the city’s approach as neighborhood and offender oriented.
“Usually what happens in cities is they do these stand-alone strategies. We’re not doing that, we’re combining what [Jim] Nolan devised… his concept is really building relationships with the community,” said Iardella who went on to say, “Wilmington Police Dept. has done an excellent job in identifying who the main individuals are, the street crews, that are creating most of the violence within this city — so it’s a small percentage of people creating most of the violence. We’re gonna target them.”
Nolan is also a retired Wilmington Police officer who is now a professor at West Virginia University.
“We need everybody’s involvement… we’re all stakeholders and it’s only through working together we’re gonna be able to get our hands around this problem,” Iardella added.
While Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams has alluded to his zero tolerance aggressive policing strategy many times, he said very little at today’s news conference, only stating his administration stands behind the police department 150 percent.