Youth, crime discussed at Mayor's town hall meeting

By Tom Lehman 12:30am, April 2, 2013
Interviews with Wilmington Mayor Williams, Licenses & Inspections commissioner Jeff Starkey and Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning
Wilmington's youth and crime were major topics at a town hall meeting hosted by Mayor Williams Monday night.

WDEL's Tom Lehman has more:

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Keeping Wilmington's youth out of trouble was the topic of most of the questions posed to Mayor Williams and his staff during the hour-and-a-half meeting at the Police Athletic League on North Market Street .

"People are very concerned about our youth, they're concerned about the dropout rate and their concerned about programs for our kids during the summer," Williams says.

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Williams says keeping the city's youth occupied with summer jobs and other opportunities will be a priority for his administration.

"We know we're moving into the warm season, and if we don't keep our kids occupied, that's when the problems start," he says.

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Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning also participated in the meeting, and says the department will be deploying a mobile strike force to help aggressively target crime during the summer.

"Especially with the warmer weather, you're going to be seeing them out there, but I'm not going to tell you the dates and the times because we know the criminals do intelligence on us," Dunning says.

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Dunning says the department is trying to streamline how officers respond to calls, especially when it involves emergencies.

She referred to a recent ride-along with an officer that responded to deal with a report of a racoon that was wandering in the street. She also noted that there are non-violent conflicts between landlords and tenants that shouldn't be handled by police.

"I mean if there's an issue of violence there, yes than we have to, but there are some things that police are constantly called on that we really don't need to handle," she says.

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Dunning was among more than a dozen city officials who joined Williams at the meeting.

Jeff Starkey, the city's commissioner of licenses and inspections was among those in attendance and says the department has been busy over the last three months.

"We're doing our neighborhood tours, from a code enforcement standpoint and we're taking inventory of the city and dealing with the exterior issues of the city," Starkey says.

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He says the city's aging buildings and infrastructure are a significant issue and that the Williams administration is focusing on neighborhoods as part of its programs.

The event was the first of four town hall meetings scheduled this week. You can see a full list of locations and times for the next meetings on the City of Wilmington's website.

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