Crime stats show improvement, but mayor says work to be done

By Tom Lehman 1:39am, July 16, 2013 - Updated 6:03pm, July 16, 2013
VIDEO: Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams and City Council President Theo Gregory discuss public safety during the first half of 2013.
Early statistics from the Wilmington Police Department suggest a new policing plan may be having some effect, but the city's mayor and police chief say efforts to curb crime remain a work in progress.

WDEL's Tom Lehman spoke with Mayor Williams and Police Chief Christine Dunning in part two of a three part series on Wilmington during the first half of 2013...

Six months after promising to Wilmington residents that police would put a dent in crime, Mayor Williams says a refocused Wilmington Police Department is making progress in decreasing crime despite being down deployment numbers.

"We still have some work to do, but I do believe that what we've done is working," Williams says. "We've eliminated a lot of specialized divisions that didn't need to exist for a city this size, we've put people back in patrol and we've redeployed our officers and it's paying off."

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The mayor cited statistics from a recent report from the Wilmington Police Department that shows a decrease in the city's overall crime rate by 24 percent during the first six months of 2013 as compared to that same time last year. That includes a 50 percent drop in murder and manslaughter, excluding the deaths associated with the deadly shooting at the New Castle County Courthouse.

He says that while there are still many shootings in Wilmington, they will likely decrease over time.

"We keep bringing this down, we're bringing the crime rate down," he says. "I know eventually we'll bring the shootings down more and more and more. We will get a grip on things once we get our deployment plan 100 percent out there."

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Wilmington Police Christine Dunning says she's encouraged by the six-month decreases in Part 1 crimes like murder and manslaughter as well as drops in lesser crimes.

"I'm being optimistic, but we've still got a lot more work to do," Dunning says.

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Dunning says beefing up the patrol division as part of a new policing plan has helped increase the department's physical presence on city streets. She also credits shared intelligence with city cops and state and federal law enforcement agencies as part of the department's efforts to pursue the city's most dangerous criminals.

"It doesn't just boil down to one thing, and I think what we're doing what now is we'll try something and we'll revaluate and if it's not working we'll try something different," she says.

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She also says community outreach and gaining the public's trust has also been a major focus and encourages those who witness or have information on criminal activity to speak with the department.

Although the six-month crime statistics show some positive trends, Theo Gregory, President of Wilmington City Council, says more time is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan.

"I know that we have to look at patterns, we have to look at long term impact or effect and decide whether or not it's working," Gregory says.

"I'm not going to say it's working or it's not working. I'm hopeful that it's working."

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Councilman Bob Williams, a former city cop, says he's taking an optimistic approach to a dip in crime.

"The glass in my opinion is half full. Having worn that uniform for 20 years, any decrease in crime shows a positive step."

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