Purzycki also requested and received support from the City Council President.
Purzycki took pains to emphasize that residents in affected neighborhoods would be treated with respect but added that cooperation of law-abiding people is needed.
The city has seen a wave of homicides since December as well as a police-involved shooting this week. The murder rate has led to national notoriety for the city and nervousness among community and business leaders.
According to a release, Purzycki met last week with federal, state and county agencies and requested assistance to supplement the efforts of the city police department whose authorized strength will be increased by 19 additional officers next month when they graduate from the police academy.
The mayor said the increased law enforcement operation, to be known as Operation Safe Streets, will be carried out in known crime areas, and will be accompanied by police and civilian efforts to garner the community’s support for and assistance with the intense.
Operation Safe Streets
Agencies involved in Operation Safe Streets include the Wilmington Police Department, Delaware State Police, the New Castle County Police Department, the Delaware Department of Justice, Delaware Department of Correction’s Probation and Parole Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Marshal’s Office.
“This police and community effort is going to require all citizens of Wilmington to participate, even those who would rather not, in cooperating with ongoing investigations and reporting criminal activities,” said Purzycki.
“The majority of people who live in high crime areas are eager to stop the relatively small number of criminals who are obtaining guns and shattering lives and communities. Expanded efforts to locate and arrest these individuals will be more successful if neighborhood residents support and assist the police.
This will not be a situation in which everyone is treated as a suspect. We will respect the rights of law-abiding citizens. However, we know what we need to do to apprehend those who have been committing the crimes and we are going to do it.”
Purzycki invited City Council President Hanifa Shabazz to join him at last week’s meeting with multiple law enforcement agencies. Purzycki said the Council President struck a good balance in the discussion by pointing to the need to assure residents that this joint effort is aimed at those who are consistently breaking the law and not the community as a whole.
Support from Council President
“We are all fed up with what a small number of people are doing to our city, and yet some residents are tired of being treated as though they are part of the problem instead of part of the solution,” said Shabazz. “We want everyone to have a chance to be part of the solution and stay clear of the increased police activity. The mayor and I were very encouraged by our meeting with various law enforcement officials because each agency was unanimous in supporting a joint operation that involves increased law enforcement as well as greater citizen involvement.”
“All Wilmington families deserve to raise their children in neighborhoods that are free from the threat of violence,” said Gov. John Carney. “The gun violence that we’ve seen is unacceptable — we need to act without delay. We’re committed to working together with our partners at the city, county and federal levels on behalf of the people of Wilmington. As a resident of this city for the past 30 years, I am personally committed to this effort.”
The governor said the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and their Families also will collaborate with the city to coordinate services for at-risk families through the Child Development Community Policing program (CDCP). Under the CDCP model which has operated in the city since 2005, a police officer on patrol in the community or responding to a reported crime can request that a state social worker come to the scene to determine if a child or family needs state assistance.
“I am pleased to see how quickly and decisively the mayor has acted on some of the important policing challenges facing the city,” said Attorney General Matt Denn. “The deployment of additional foot patrol officers has proven to be a successful practice in preventing crime and forming positive relationships with neighbors, and his commitment to expanding foot patrols as part of this initiative is welcome. It is also encouraging to see the dedication of police officers to the city by the Delaware State Police and New Castle County Police. I hope that this commitment to the city will be sustained.”
County executive supports effort
“We are alarmed at the violence in Wilmington and stand side-by-side with the mayor and governor to address the criminal activity,” said New Castle County Executive Matthew Meyer. “It is not acceptable if any community in our county is not safe. We must all act to meet this threat to public safety. Wilmington is a vital anchor for New Castle County. We will join forces with the neighborhoods of the city, not only to participate in this temporary policing operation but also to increase community engagement in the long term.”
The Centers for Disease Control, in reviewing Wilmington’s crime problem in the context of an urgent public health issue, recommended the adoption of a new social service delivery system coupled with positive youth activities to prevent younger people from becoming involved in criminal activity.
Purzycki said for the immediate future. However, the focus will be on increased police action to bring to justice the people who use guns to hurt or kill others. Residents in every neighborhood must be able to live their lives without fear, said the mayor. “We are carrying out this joint operation with respect and appreciation for those who are ready to join in this effort.”