Mayor on shootings: “When do we say enough is enough?”

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Saffo and Barfield Violence prevention
New Hanover County Commissioner Chairman Jonathan Barfield (left) Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo (center), and Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous (right) during the press conference at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by: James Mieczkowski

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo joined Police Chief Ralph Evangelous and other local leaders yesterday afternoon from City Hall, urging the community to “step up” to help find suspects in the recent drive-by shooting of a nine-year-old girl and make an extra effort to reduce community violence.

The early morning shooting of a nine-year old girl in her home Monday comes just a week after two unrelated fatal shootings in the downtown Wilmington area, with the recent uptick in daytime fatal shootings and youth violence becoming the cause behind the unified call to crack down on crime.

“We are here today because we have a serious problem facing our community…This senseless violence needs to stop and we need everyone’s help, prayers and patience to put an end to it,” said Mayor Bill Saffo. “This is not just a city problem or a police problem; this is a community problem and I implore all of our citizens to step up in some way.”

Mayor Saffo cited city and county initiatives such as the Mobile Field Force and Gang Task Force along with outreach programs such as “Community Conversations” and the Blue Ribbon Commission. All are among the programs deployed against community violence. However, he stressed the extra help needed from within the communities themselves to bring an end to the brutality.

“When do we say enough is enough? These folks [Wilmington Police Department and New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department] can solve the crimes but we’re going to need the community to step forward and tell us who these people are.”

During the press conference Evangelous announced a coalition between the City of Wilmington and Crimestoppers of the Lower Cape Fear to offer a $5,000 reward for information that will lead to an arrest of a suspect in the case of the injured 9-year-old girl. He stressed the importance for local citizens to use anonymous crime tip outlets such as Crime Stoppers and Text-A-Tip to help with any potential leads in the case.

According to Wilmington Police Department Spokeswoman Cathryn Lindsay, the girl was shot in the left hand while inside a home in the 1500 block of Railroad Street at about 3:15 a.m.

Eight adults, an infant and the 9-year-old victim were inside the home at the time of the shooting, Lindsay said. Police found two bullet holes in the home.The girl was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center to be treated for an injury that was not considered life-threatening.

According to city officials, the shooting was not gang related and no other injuries were reported at the scene.

In order to combat future violence, Envangelous encouraged citizens to launch grass-roots crime prevention campaigns, like community watches. “When groups work together at a grass-roots level things become much easier for us,” he said.

“Growing up in Wilmington, this is not the Wilmington I grew up in. I’m calling on every citizen to lock arms, hold hands, and take back our community,” said New Hanover County Commissioner Chairman Jonathan Barfield. “I’m encouraging every adult, every parent in our community to volunteer in our schools, to join watch dog programs, and to let our faces be seen.

“We can do this.”

Anyone with information regarding a crime is asked to contact the Wilmington Police Department at (910) 343-3609 or Text-A-Tip to CRIMES. Start your message with Tip708, then type your tip.

James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at james.m@portcitydaily.com On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD

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