Street corner shootings down sharply in Wilmington; mayor chief cautiously optimistic trend will continue

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Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki and Chief of Police Robert J. Tracy took note of improving crime trends that include a sharp decline in shootings.

Officials have been cautious about making too much of the trend since it does not take much for smaller cities to see a spike.

Based on crime data for January 1 through May 7, versus 2017 year-to-date statistics, the mayor and chief say shooting incidents in Wilmington are at a level not seen in nearlya decade.

Purzycki said when Tracy was hired in April of 2017, the chief expressed optimism at that time that his policing reforms would begin to produce lower crime numbers at about the one year mark, if not sooner.

“Neither the Chief nor I know whether these improving numbers will continue throughout the year,” said Mayor Purzycki. “But it is encouraging to know that the WPD’s new emphasis on community engagement, intelligence-led policing, directed patrols and instituting the CompStat methodology are producing better results than we have seen in the past few years.”

Tracy said there have been six gun homicides so far this year compared to 16 as of this date last year. Overall, there have been nine homicides in 2018, with three being non-shooting related but domestic in nature.

Six of the nine homicides occurred inside residences while only three happened on city streets.

Shootingincidents have dropped 61 percent over last year, or 25 incidents this year versus 64 in 2017. There have been 43 fewer shooting victims so far this year—27 this year versus 70 in 2017—for a 61 percent reduction. Including all categories – murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and auto theft – crime in Wilmington in 2018 is down 8 percent over 2017.

Further progress in the overall crime rate will be needed to change perceptions that led to the city in late 2014 being dubbed “Murdertown USA in a Newsweek story that made the city’s crime rate a national issue.

The resulting furor contributed to then-Mayor Dennis Williams being defeated in a bid for a second term, with Purzycki topping a crowded field.

While little violent crime was reportedin downtown Wilmington, companies were nervous about their presence in the city andhired more security. It was not known if the crime issue figured in the swap of headquarters operations between DuPont and its spin-off Chemours.

“The men and woman of the WPD have responded well to a redefined command structure and different policing techniques that, when combined, are beginning to change the culture of the department and its approach to policing in Wilmington,” said Tracy. “We operate every day as though our most important asset is the community. We’ve worked hard to win the trust of citizens and to keep that trust. We will continue to actively seek their assistance in curbing crime, which we feel is a huge factor as to why crime trends are moving in the right direction.”

Purzycki said one of the more encouraging crime statistics he has reviewed in recent weeks is how the decrease in the year-to-date 2018 violent crime incidents compares to similar periods during the years 2008 through 2017. The Mayor and Chief said today that because there was an unusually high number of shootings in 2017, it is important to compare 2018’s current shooting incident numbers to previous year stats as of May 7. Year-to-date numbers from 2018 versus the same dates from 2008 through 2017 show shooting incidents trending downward by an average of 35 percent.

Tracynoted that citizens can track the crime numbers for all of Wilmington and particular neighborhoods on a regular basis by reviewing the WPD’s CompStat reports which are published on the City’s website athttp://bit.ly/WilmDECompStat.

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