WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Police Department is looking to expand efforts to tackle gun violence across the region.
As part of the annual budget process, the department is requesting $265,754 from the city in the next fiscal year to staff two full-time gun crime investigators and purchase unmarked patrol cars.
The two new investigators on the team would benefit the Gun Crimes Task Force, a partnership with federal and state agencies to address violence regionally.
“Criminals do not adhere to municipal boundaries and adding these two investigators to the task force will allow the city’s police department to expand their reach,” the recommended budget states.
WPD declined to comment for this article and instead directed Port City Daily to file a public records request, which may take up to four weeks per city policy.
The budget proposal prefaces that violence is declining, but gun crime is still an ongoing problem. According to Chief Donny William’s annual report to council, in 2021, violent crime was down 17% compared to 2020. Williams said at the time that Wilmington was reporting lower murder rates than other places, but he did not specify which cities.
Police investigated 13 homicide incidents in 2021, with a total of 15 victims. So far, in the first four months of 2022, there were 38 shooting incidents total. Five of those were fatal, leading to seven deaths.
Early into the year, on Jan. 15., three people were killed in a domestic incident at the Landfall shopping center. The suspect, Wilbert Lamont Robinson, shot himself on the scene and was taken into custody.
Later that month, on Jan. 27, Devin Williams was shot on North 31st Street and died at the hospital. On Feb. 6, four more pefople, including a 6-year-old, were struck in the same place while mourning his death. The city is now expected to install street lights on the roadway at the request of Port City United, the county’s new department aimed at stopping violence. Its new director, Cedric Harrison, was one of the victims in the second incident.
On Feb. 26, Tammy Hayes passed away following a shooting on South 5th Avenue. Keisha Baldwin was arrested for murder in connection to Hayes’ case. Ronequia Leshawn Harris — a Port City United employee — was arrested for accessory after the fact and subsequently fired from her new role with the county, WHQR reported.
April 5, a shooting on North 11th Street took the life of Tyshaun Delts. On April 19, Kevin Mullen was taken into custody in connection to the fatal shooting of Kevin Faircloth on Davie Drive.
The total recommended funding from the city for WPD is $38.7 million, a 4% increase from the current fiscal year. It includes five more positions to beef up patrol downtown, including two police officers in the municipal services district at a cost of $184,156 and three downtown police officers for $276,234. The payroll of two officers will likely be funded by a 1-cent increase in the MSD property tax rate, a policy change some downtowners have taken issue with.
“Police’s downtown taskforce is feeling the pressure of the new residential communities and the amphitheater drawing more people downtown,” the budget states. “A few years ago, a plan to add officers to the downtown area was deferred due to the delayed opening of some of the residential complexes. Now, the city is at a pivotal juncture that requires more resources to support the needs of growing downtown area.”