Chief Tracey: The Wilmington Police Department remains steadfast in our efforts to combat illegal gun possession and gun violence in our neighborhoods.
WILMINGTON (DE) BY DIGITAL STAFF: After recent city-wide shootings, Chief Tracey to focus resources on addressing illegal firearm possession saying, data makes it quite clear that illegal firearm possession is a growing issue in our community.
“Communities large and small across the country reported record increases in firearm violence and murders last year, even amid reductions in overall violent and property crime. Unfortunately, many communities have seen continued increases into 2021, and Wilmington has not been immune to this nationwide trend.
Over the course of the past several years, I have spoken about the dangers of illegal firearm possession, and about the importance of law enforcement focusing on those few individuals in our community with the highest propensity for violence. These are the individuals who are most involved in driving gun violence in our community, and those who are simultaneously at a disproportionately higher risk for becoming victims of gun violence themselves. This is perhaps best exemplified by two individuals who, after being released pending trial following gun arrests in Wilmington last year, were shot and killed.
Recognizing the significant risk to public safety posed by these individuals, we have focused resources on addressing illegal firearm possession – a gateway crime, if you will, to shooting incidents and murders. And the results have been record-high numbers of gun arrests in 2020 and so far in 2021. In 2020, our officers made 307 gun arrests involving 293 defendants (meaning that 13 individuals were arrested by our agency alone, more than once last year on gun charges). So far in 2021, our officers have made more than 145 gun arrests, putting our agency on track to again set an annual record for firearm arrests. This data makes quite clear that illegal firearm possession is a growing issue in our community, as it is in others throughout our region.
In response, the Wilmington Police Department has dedicated significant resources to a comprehensive approach to suppressing gun violence. This includes leveraging components of our Intelligence-Led Policing strategy, including the Real Time Crime Center, as well as our Crime Gun Intelligence Center that is operated in conjunction with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Our investigators use the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to analyze evidence and generate investigative leads to help identify those responsible for shooting incidents as well as shots fired incidents. Our strategy of Group Violence Intervention (GVI) is also a key component of our focus on those with the highest propensity for violence – adults and juveniles – and has seen success in offering a range of holistic social services as an alternative to law enforcement action and as an incentive to cease engagement in violence.
These strategies are complemented by our CompStat management methodology and, most importantly, by the engagement of every last one of our officers with the community we serve.
We will continue to employ these strategies, which will be further enhanced through the continued deployment of additional police officers to areas that have historically seen gun violence. Our agency receives grant funding that supports some of these additional patrols, which have been effective in ensuring additional police presence in some of these areas. In the coming days, I will also be presenting to City Council a resolution to commence the hiring process for our next Wilmington Police Academy, which will ensure that we maintain adequate staffing levels in future years.
We will also continue to work closely with our local, state and federal partners through our strong multi-jurisdictional partnerships. This includes close collaborations with state and federal prosecutors, as well as those in other portions of the criminal justice system. We will continue to brief our partners and stakeholders about the inherent dangers of illegal firearm possession, and about the imperative for us to take this criminal activity seriously as a means to suppress gun violence.
The past couple of weeks have shown us just how much of a problem this remains – to include the shooting of three Wilmington Police officers by a domestic violence suspect, and the arrest of a man following an armed robbery who has since been tied to serious crimes in Philadelphia and who is the subject of further investigation by our agency and others. We have also seen two juveniles shot in our City – and while we have seen significant reductions in juvenile shooting incidents this year, this remains a key area of focus for our department. We will continue to leverage the Group Violence Intervention team, as well as our Youth Response Unit, to address trauma and offer social services to youth with the highest propensity for becoming involved in gun violence.
In short, the Wilmington Police Department remains steadfast in our efforts to combat illegal gun possession and gun violence in our neighborhoods. We will continue to leverage every available resource, and to employ evidence-based strategies to enhance public safety in our city and to provide to our community the level of safety and security they deserve.”