Wilmington police add homicide unit to fix rising murder rate

Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

Wilmington Police Department has finally added a homicide unit to its force.

Mayor Dennis Williams who joined Police Chief Bobby Cummings made the announcement on Tuesday. Both expressed how vital the unit will be to the community once it becomes active on October 20th.

“Having the dedicated investigators will provide a greater focus on solving crimes, said Chief Cummings. The unit will look at past cases which will be reviewed with the initial assigned investigator and then assigned to the homicide unit,” Cummings added.

The new homicide department will include four detectives that are already on the force, the station’s current cold case unit, a supervisor and two investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) who will work on connecting cases through the collection of evidence that’s already been taken from various scenes. The group formally establishes the unit.

According to Chief Cummings, Wilmington has had approximately 214 homicide cases from 2004 to 2013. To date, about 56 percent of those cases have been solved.

But one case that remains unsolved is the murder of Lynette Williams’ brother who died 15 years ago. Mayor Williams attributed the new unit to her call for such a unit, and other community members who have always asked about an investigative department dedicated to solving homicide crimes.

“I listened to the people. They told me what they wanted. Once we went back and examined everything, we felt that we needed it,” Mayor Williams said.

“I,  and many of my Council colleagues, have been urging the Mayor and Chief to use existing staff and resources to create a homicide unit that will focus all of its efforts on the most serious of crimes affecting our City, which is murder,” said Council President Theo Gregory who’s excited to the see the new department come full circle.

In addition to what will take place within the Wilmington Police Department, the city will also resurrect the Police Advisory Council which will be made up of clergy, businesses, education officials and people from various neighborhoods.

“These folks will come in every 30 days to advise the chief on recruitment, neighborhood issues and problems,” Mayor Williams said.

Other plans include a program called the ‘Mayor’s Open Door’ where people will have the opportunity to come to Williams’ office every other Wednesday to discuss community issues.

“This administration has nothing to hide. We are constantly open and we want to put it out there,” Williams said.

Finally, Wilmington will implement a ‘Gun Stat’ program that will involve a panel of law enforcement officials from federal, state and county agencies. The group will address all firearms related incidents within the city and use crime statistics to identify violent offenders, crime trends and current gaps in criminal cases.

The mayor emphasized that all of the programs announced will support each other with an emphasis on the homicide unit. Wilmington has seen nearly two dozen homicides this year, with very few cases solved. Chief Cummings said most of those investigations are still ongoing. As a result, he added community cooperation is just as important to closing some of the cases. 

Chief Cummings said, “We will still need the help of the community to assist in reducing the violent crimes that are occurring within our city.”

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