Williams sends police officers on patrol downtown

By Amy Cherry 1:59pm, October 15, 2013 - Updated 12:21am, October 16, 2013
Mayor Williams announces downtown Wilmington will come under a heavier police presence.
Added police protection is coming to Rodney Square.

WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.

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10 police officers will be going back in uniform, and they're being sent downtown. Five of the officers will be assigned there permanently while five additional officers will patrol downtown at night.

"This has been a decade-long neglect. We will police downtown, loitering, panhandling, disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, folks should not have to be subjected to these things," says Mayor Williams.

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Mayor Williams says the decision wasn't triggered by a particular incident, but instead, is revenue-based.

"If we lose our businesses in this city, we are finished," he says.

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He points to neighboring cities in distress.

"When your financial base is gone, you're finished, look at Camden, look at Chester," he says.

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He says every time a businessman goes to the Christiana Mall instead of shopping in downtown Wilmington, the city loses an average of $500 per day.

City Police Chief Christine Dunning says the logic behind the new policing strategy is simple.

"What happens when the tax base goes? You'll see less police officers," she says.

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The controversial decision comes off the heels of a violent three days in Northwest Wilmington, where four people were shot, two of them killed, all within the same half-mile radius. One of the victims in these shootings was hit by a stray bullet.

"If you're in the game, you can keep the district as safe as you wanna be, but if someone is after you, it could be in Westover Hills, and they want to kill you, they're going to kill you," says Williams.

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Williams insists officers aren't being removed from high-crime areas to fight crime downtown.

He's also rolling out a new blueprint to address homelessness in Wilmington called the Coalition for Caring, which he claims has backing from the governor. The effort combines police work with a state social service response.

Council members react to downtown deployment plan

Two Wilmington Council members say they're in favor of Mayor Williams' downtown policing plan--if it ends up being part of a larger deployment strategy around the city.

WDEL's Tom Lehman reports...

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Councilman Mike Brown (R-At Large), who heads the public safety committee, says he feels the Williams administration has left council out of discussions about the police deployment.

"He is the mayor. It's his decision," Brown says. "But you would think he wants to include the legislative part of government just to sit us down and say 'this is what we want to do, this is what (Williams) wants to do."

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However, Brown says he supports the strategy if it's also used in other parts of the city as part of the overall policing plan.

Councilman Darius Brown (D-3rd District) is also supportive of the new policing deployment, provided that other neighborhoods get similar treatment.

He penned a list of suggestions on how to improve public safety in his district in August.

"Our neighborhoods are doing all they can. Our residents are doing all they can and they're asking for the same services that are being provided downtown to be provided in the neighborhoods," Brown said.

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