Wilmington Police announce public safety plan

(FILE/NewsWorks)

(FILE/NewsWorks)

The city of Wilmington took another step in its effort to reduce the violence that has exploded over the past 5 years.

The city police department is enacting a comprehensive public safety plan in an effort to reduce crime.

The plan, announced during a press conference Monday, includes an increased effort on community relations and improved technology, and new management positions that will add $827,116 to the City’s general operating budget.

 “It’s not organized criminals driving up our crime rate in the city of Wilmington. The majority of the violence is committed by younger men struggling to find work and maintain a sense of respect and dignity,” Cummings said.

“That’s why in early October we partnered with (Violence Reduction Network) to develop strategies aimed at the community and not just policing them.”

The plan follows a 2014 Wilmington Public Safety Strategies Commission report, which outlined ways the City can tackle increased violent crimes. Eight-three percent of the recommendations will be implemented by the end of the year, and 62 percent was implemented before March.

“We participated in this entire process,” Cummings said. “Our doors were always open for the consultants to come in and evaluate our police department.”

The plan proposes the reorganization of the police department from two branches of policing into four to more efficiently manage and implement violence reduction strategies, data analysis tactics and community policing efforts. The four areas include strategic planning, support services, operations and investigations.

The largest piece of the plan includes additional management positions—an inspector of strategic planning and development, an inspector of support services, a chief information officer and a director of communications—which will add $827,116 to the general operating budget. If approved, the additional money will be added to the City budget in the next fiscal year starting July 1.

Mayor Dennis Williams, D-Wilmington, said he was reluctant to include the new positions in the budget. However, after listening to the needs of the police department and the community he was willing to compromise, he said.  

“We have to be willing to spend the money and to invest,” Williams said. “Criminals are getting smarter. We can’t sit back and try to do it the cheap way. We have to go out and invest our money and invest in the best qualified people to come in to be police officers and to run our department smoothly.”

Williams came under fire during the city budget process for not including public safety funding until after Council asked for additional money. He said he changed his tune when the Chief explained how creating more management positions could help the force do its job better.

“I think we’ll do it right…we’re going to Council, we’ll all sit down and have best finance people in the room, and they’ll decide which is the safe way to move this money, and if we can’t do it maybe we’ll do it small,” he said. “We’re all going to roll our sleeves up and make a decision on this.”

The police department also will have a stronger presence in the city with the addition of 12 officers to the homicide and violent crimes unit, and 25 officers to focus on community policing efforts throughout the three-sector deployment.

Officers will be assigned to the Wilmington Athletic League and the William Hicks Anderson Community Center, and will work with the community to identify problems and create a safe haven for youth. The police officers also have recently been trained on community policing principals.

“Policing is most affective when officers work with the community, not strictly policing it,” Cummings said.

Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz said she is pleased the City is planning to implement the recommendations of the Commission, and believes it’s a significant step forward.

“The fact there is effort, energy and strategic planning on doing so is a good sign we’re moving to address part of the things we think will help with the violence,” she said. 

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