Wilmington police: Overall violent crimes and thefts lowest in two decades, though total murders increased last year

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Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said crime dropped to the lowest point in over two decades in 2016. The numbers were released by the police department on  Tuesday. (Photo by Christina Haley)
Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said crime dropped to the lowest point in over two decades in 2016. The numbers were released by the police department on  Tuesday. (Photo by Christina Haley)

WILMINGTON — Violent crimes and the larger theft crimes in the Port City are the lowest they have been in more than two decades, Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said on Tuesday.

“After reviewing the crimes numbers for 2016, we’re happy to announce that the overall ‘part 1’ crime rate in the City of Wilmington is the lowest it has been in more than 23 years,” Evangelous said. (Video below)

Part 1 crimes, so called due to reporting vernacular used by law enforcement nationwide, are violent crimes and property crimes. Evangelous said they include: aggravated assault, rape, murder, robbery, arson, burglary, larceny theft and motor vehicle theft.

In 1993, there were more than 6,800 of such crimes in the city. But since 2003, area has been on a steady decline in crime, Evangelous said. He said the decline was significant because of the increase in overall population of the city.

In 2016, the number of part 1 crimes in the area dropped to just under 5,400.

“We believe these historic lows are due in part to the hard work of the men and women of the Wilmington Police Department, who protect and serve each of you. And you — our citizens — the eyes and ears of our city,” Evangelous said. “You call 911 and report crime when you see it and for that we remain grateful. You help to make up our growing Neighborhood Watch program.”

WPD 2016 chart 2

The police chief also credited the drop to the department’s law enforcement and city partners, as well as its developing intelligence programs, technology, social media and the more frequent use of “Text-A-Tip” by community members.

Though the numbers of part 1 crimes decreased in 2016, Evangelous has still turned his sights toward 2017. In the future, the police chief said the agency is going to continue a more focused enforcement against gun violence and gang culture.

While the police department did see a drop in violent crime, the city’s murders increased from 12 murders the in 2015 to 15 murders in 2016. Of the 15 homicides in 2016, 10 were committed with a gun and eight of the 15 murder victims had “gang affiliation.”

Also noted in the data is the amount of aggravated assaults due to gang activities, including drive-by shootings; something Evangelous said “are still high for a city our size.”

WPD 2016 chart 1

“We must continue to address gun violence and the gang culture that continues to affect our community,” Evangelous said. “Gangs and the opioid plague that we see in our nation, but specifically in our community, are driving our crime numbers right now.”

Opioid-related crimes

On the opioid epidemic, Evangelous also called for better control over prescriptions and over-prescribing of opioid medications. Evangelous attributed the use of Fentanyl that’s being used to mix with heroin as a contributor to the amount of deaths the population has seen in the overall epidemic in the city.

“My drug guys tell me heroin in it of itself is not killing these folks, it’s the Fentanyl. It’s the Fentanyl that’s killing these people. And so we never saw Fentanyl being cut into heroin back in the 70s, [or] in the 80s. And now they’re using it, and it’s killing people,” Evangelous said. 

Evangelous also noted the amount of Naloxone being used to reverse overdoses in the community and emphasized the need for more focused efforts on treatment. 

“We’ve got to do something differently than what we are doing presently, because what we are doing is not working,” Evangelous said. “We can’t arrest the situation away. And we can’t arrest enough drug dealers away. We know that. We have got to focus on the users.”

Evangelous said some of the area’s heroin users are committing property crimes and break-ins, which is driving the overall crime.

“We get a handle on this, we’ll see the crime number go down even further in the future,” he said.

Market Street motels/hotels

The police chief also touched on the hotels and motels situation on Market Street. In December 2015, the police chief joined efforts with District Attorney Ben David and the City of Wilmington’s attorney’s office to pursue cases against several hotels in the Market Street corridor, plagued by drugs, prostitution and violence. Since that time, several hotels have entered into agreements with the city in 2016.

“We’re seeing a … reduction in crime,” Evangelous said about the Market Street situation.

“All of these pieces of the puzzle are coming together are having an impact,” Evangelous said. “It’s not happening overnight. But over a period of months and years, we’re seeing a continuous decrease in crime and better quality of life for our citizens.”

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