City crews collect tons of trash in new crime prevention effort

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City crews work to take trash and debris from the streets as part of a crime prevention effort in a targeted area of downtown Wilmington. Photo courtesy of the city.
City crews work to take trash and debris from the streets as part of a crime prevention effort in a targeted area of downtown Wilmington. Photo courtesy of the city.

Tons of illegally dumped debris has been collected in an area of downtown Wilmington targeted for a new crime prevention effort in the city.

The Wilmington Police Department, city code enforcement and solid waste division worked on a joint effort on Wednesday Feb. 17, to clean up a targeted area of the city that spans from 7th to 13th streets and Wooster to Castle streets, according to Malissa Talbert, spokeswoman for the City of Wilmington.

City crews cleaned 71 properties and distributed information to educate homeowners, landlords and tenants on the proper disposal of trash and bulky items such as furniture and electronics. The city removed about 14 tons of illegally dumped debris from the streets.

The clean-up effort took place as part of a wide-scale effort to prevent crime in the local community. On Monday, Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous spoke about the effort during a press conference on crime prevention and youth violence, along with four other city and county leaders.

The targeted area for the effort includes the site at 11th and Castle streets, where 16-year-old Shane Simpson was fatally shot in a drive-by gang-related shooting in December 2015. Four other teenagers, ages 15 to 17, were also injured in the shooting. Two men and two teens have since been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Simpson’s death.

Read related story: Fourth suspect arrested in Greensboro, charged in gang-related shooting that killed student

The police department has expanded their community policing tactics, concentrating some of their efforts and resources in the targeted community where the most recent street-sweep occurred. The targeted area “has been a hot bed for crime for many decades,” Evangelous said.

Police are working to take back one area of the city at a time, to increase public confidence and citizens’ sense of safety, Evanglous said. The department, working in conjunction with the city, will move to different areas of Wilmington as they become successful.

Trash and debris left in the target area before clean-up.
Trash and debris left in the target area before cleanup.

While last week’s clean-up efforts was a short-term fix, Talbert said, the city will continue to focus on educating property owners and enforcing public nuisance regulations, as part of a long-term solution to help address the “broken window” theory that more crime occurs in dilapidated or poorly maintained areas.

Talbert said the community had a “very favorable response” to the area-wide sweep. But as the city increases education about the waste disposal, the city hopes the need for future clean-ups like the one last week will decrease.

Educating residents was a big part of the city’s effort, Talbert said. Illegal dumping is a violation of city ordinances. If the trash continues, the city’s code enforcement office will handle any future illegal dumping in the area.

According to Talbert, the city’s trash and debris pickup cost just over $1,700, which includes the cost of overtime for four sanitation workers, two garbage trucks, gas and tipping fees at the county landfill. Long-term efforts and additional street-sweeps in the future would require additional resources that would need to be allocated in the city’s budget for the next fiscal year, she added.