The number of shootings in the City of Wilmington has dropped dramatically under the leadership of Chief of Police Robert J. Tracy.
When Mayor Mike Purzycki named former NYPD Captain Robert “Bob” Tracy as Wilmington’s new police Chief in April of 2017, the city was in the midst of a record year for shootings. That year ended with 197 people shot and a total of 32 related deaths. Those numbers were up from 145 people shot and 21 related deaths in 2016.
In January of 2018, Tracy announced a departmental leadership shake-up as part of his reorganization plan. At the time he said: “Big changes are coming to the Wilmington Police Department (WPD)”. Since his appointment, Tracy had been gradually changing police culture within the department through organizational discipline, organizational accountability, and organizational communication.
In the January announcement, Tracy said a big part of that change has been in the department’s police culture. Most police agencies still conduct themselves on the mindset where their daily successes are not being applauded, “Great leadership is about acknowledging the accomplishments of the men and women in our department”.
He went on to say “We are now celebrating all the good things that our officers do on a daily basis, whether it is solving crimes, strengthening our partnership and building a trusting relationship with the community, improving our training program and departmental policies, helping a fellow officer, or making a positive impact on the life of a young person.”
“Everything we do matters. It all matters! By instilling proven crime fighting and prevention strategies through intelligence-led policing, evidence-based policing, and community engagement to all of our officers, we are now headed in the right direction toward the path of long-term sustainable success.”
In February 2018, the department reported that the murder rate was down 67% year over year. Later, in May of 2018, Mayor Purzycki and Chief Tracy reported that all shooting incidents were down 61% year over year. Purzycki said when Tracy was hired on April 14, 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. While things were moving in the right direction the Mayor was cautiously optimistic. Neither the Chief nor the Mayor knew whether the improving numbers would continue throughout the year.
“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,” Tracy said in May. “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.”
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, added Purzycki in his May statement.
When the year ended yesterday, the police department had reported that shooting incidents were cut by more than half, with 78 shootings and 19 related deaths for 2018.