Chief Ask Prosecutors To Hold Those Arrested On Gun Charges In Wake Of Murders

The Wilmington Police Chief has issued a statement on the gun violence that is raving the city. Below is the letter:

Statement

Earlier this year, Wilmington Police Chief Robert J. Tracy shared an update with the community about the efforts of our agency to combat gun violence in Wilmington.

Now that we are approaching the end of the year, Chief Tracy is sharing additional statistics and information about these efforts:

“As I recently shared, Wilmington has unfortunately not been immune to the nationwide trend of increasing gun violence. We have seen shootings and homicides surge in cities across the country, and Delaware has similarly reported increases in gun violence across our State.

Unfortunately, even as we have seen a 15-percent decrease in shooting incidents in Wilmington this year – including a more than 50-percent decrease in juvenile shooting incidents – and a decrease in overall crime, our City has seen an increase in fatal shooting incidents.

We continue to see the residual effects of the wide scale societal interruptions spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Disruptions in other facets of the criminal justice system, nonprofit organizations, schools and community centers, coupled with increased challenges related to substance abuse, mental health and unemployment, continue to manifest themselves in our community and in cities and towns across the country.

The Wilmington Police Department has adapted to this trend. In addition to our existing, evidence-based crime reduction strategies – which have been proven to be successful in other cities and have brought enhanced public safety to our City in past years – we have continued to rely on our strong and long-standing multi-jurisdictional partnerships with law enforcement and prosecutorial entities at the local, county, state and federal levels. These working relationships, including weekly intelligence meetings and daily communication between investigators, facilitate the sharing of intelligence about those few individuals who are responsible for driving gun violence not only in Wilmington, but in New Castle County and throughout Delaware. Crime doesn’t always follow jurisdictional boundaries, which makes these partnerships as critical as ever.

We have also continued to implement Group Violence Intervention, which blends social service provision with traditional law enforcement action in an effort to steer repeat violent offenders away from crime. We have seen the effects of this initiative, and the Group Violence Intervention team made a presentation before the Wilmington City Council Public Safety Committee last week on this topic (the presentation and discussion can be viewed here: https://wilmingtonde.swagit.com/play/11082021-579).

And we have continued to make record numbers of gun arrests, continuing the trend our agency saw in 2020 and far surpassing numbers from previous years. As of November 1, our department has made 254 gun arrests this year with a total of 247 defendants – meaning 7 defendants have been arrested more than once by our agency this year alone on gun charges. Of the 247 defendants, 106 have had prior gun arrests.

As of the end of October, 140 of the 247 defendants had been released pending further court proceedings – meaning that approximately 57% of those arrested on gun charges this year are out on bail pending trial. While bail is a critically important function of our criminal justice system, there is clear evidence that those with the highest propensity for committing a crime with a gun are also at a disproportionally higher risk of being targeted by gun violence themselves. These few individuals also pose among the greatest risks to public safety. Requiring significant cash bail, or denying bail altogether, for this small group of offenders would help ensure their own safety, as well as that of our neighborhoods. To this point, two individuals who had been arrested this year by our department on gun charges have since been murdered.

As these statistics bear to light, we continue to see an increase in illegal firearm possession, and what appears to be a perceived lack of consequences for carrying a gun. We will continue to work closely with state and federal prosecutors to ensure we do everything we can to advocate for serious penalties for those who illegally carry a firearm on our streets.

As I have said in the past, illegal firearm possession is a gateway crime to shooting incidents and murders. It is imperative that we continue to take action to send the clear message that illegal firearm possession will not be tolerated. Our communities have seen unacceptable levels of firearm violence, and we as a criminal justice system need to continue to devote resources to combatting firearm offenses.

We will continue to engage with the community and build upon our relationships through assigning the same officers to the same areas each time they report for duty, through ensuring our officers are conducting foot patrols and interacting with residents between calls for service, and through the leadership of our sector captains. This includes attending each and every community meeting, and we look forward to the continued return of these meetings as opportunities to facilitate in-person interactions and the sharing of community concerns with our patrol officers and supervisors who can help address these issues.

We will also continue to implement Group Violence Intervention, and to take steps to bolster the services our department can provide to those affected by crime and violence. We have submitted a grant application that would fund two additional positions in our Victim Services Unit, which would provide additional staffing for this critical function of our department.

We will also continue to leverage anti-violence overtime funding to deploy additional police officers to areas affected by violence – which serves to prevent retaliation, ensure a greater police presence and continue to build upon relationships with the community we serve.

In short, we will not relent in our efforts. While gun violence remains a challenge we continue to address, the small group responsible for driving this violence does not represent all Wilmingtonians. Working together with our residents and our partners in the criminal justice system – fellow law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges and others – we will continue to work towards making our community safer for all of our residents and visitors.”

Source: Wilmington Police

About Staff Writer

First State Update's Delaware editorial team covers New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County breaking news, political news, and general news stories. We bring the reader the latest news from the Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Rehoboth Beach and all point in between. If you have news to share, email us at desk@firststateupdate.com.

View all posts by Staff Writer →