Last night, there was a quickly called meeting by Herman Holloway, Jr. to get “community leaders” to discuss Wilmington’s violence problem. Specifically, Holloway wanted to talk about strategies to get more people to tell what they know about violent crime and illegal guns to the police. He also wanted to float a couple of other ideas for addressing Wilmington’s violence problem — basically urging Wilmington’s Community Leaders to come together to support the Mayor and the Police. But supporting them in exactly what is still not clear.
There were two main pieces to Holloway’s proposal — one is a billboard to be placed around the city encouraging folks to call the police with what they know about issues. This is meant to be a way for residents to call the WPD anonymously and he proposed to use a number that had been in use during the Reagan War on Drugs era (Holloway specifically referenced this and referenced the War on Drugs during Reagan as a success). Evidently, this number still works and he wants to repurpose it to let people report info anonymously.
There are already ways to report info to the WPD anonymously, including an 800 number maintained by the WPD (that can’t track your location the way 911 can) and the Crimestoppers line. The fact that we have community leaders who don’t know this indicates an education problem — the WPD hasn’t done enough to make sure that people know how to contact them safely.
Holloway also wants to revive something called the Citizens Community Board — a Jim Sills-era invention that pretty much let a certain set of Community Leaders convince themselves they had some influence over the Administration. It wasn’t all that effective, and dropped by the Baker Administration. Holloway sees this new incarnation as a way for Community Leaders to come together to discuss strategies to reduce violence with the WPD and other City Agencies. He wants to hear from various communities about what they are doing to reduce violence in their neighborhoods and have the WPD and others at the table to see how they can help. For those of us who are STILL advocates of a Community Policing strategy, this looks alot like a part of what Community Policing would achieve without a mediating body like this Board. Better partnerships with Wilmington’s communities is still something of a pipe dream for the WPD. The Szczerba-era WPD Community Policing *Unit* had 30+ officers but worked if you had the right officers; and the Dunning-era Community Policing unit has 8 or so, with one officer per Councilmanic District. And I still don’t know if most neighborhoods know this. But the WPD does assign 2 people to Market St and 2 people to the Riverfront where people aren’t being shot.
The meeting ended with a shouting match between Holloway and Derek Johnson (Pastor D). Pastor D wanted to know who was involved in the decision on the placement of the billboards — even though there isn’t even money for these billboards yet — and rather than offer to provide input to the decision-making process, he presented himself as a gatekeeper for the community that has been impacted by the violence. Partway through the meeting, almost a dozen folks arrived to sit with Johnson and he pointed to them as the community that he was representing. Holloway wanted to talk about billboard placement outside of this meeting and Johnson kept on about consulting the community. There was more shouting, but I’ve no idea what about. According the WDEL, Johnson didn’t think that the billboards would reach the young people it should (he is probably right about that) and thought a social media campaign would be better. Frankly, whatever can be done to tell people how they can confidentially report info to the WPD is a good idea. But that bypasses the fact that one of the reasons that folks don’t talk (even the people shot) is that they want to take care of whoever is at fault themselves — which is a bigger problem than folks just not talking to the WPD.
But this is the nub of the leadership problem here — we have plenty of folks who hang around problems to promote their profile and troll for funds. We don’t have enough folks who are rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard work. And those that are, don’t get enough support. We have the Hope Commission that was meant to specifically address causes of crime and support communities. They’ve been largely invisible, but recently have been involved with re-entry support and programming, which is good. You often heard from Jim Baker’s people that crime was bigger than policing (he was always right about that) and now you are hearing from the Williams Administration that people don’t cooperate with the police (which is sometimes true). Interesting how the Williams message has gone from “I know how to reduce crime” to “people don’t cooperate with us”. When getting community cooperation was always going to be a key part of reducing crime the whole time. This was the “hug a thug” BS that Williams and his people persistently dismissed as weakness.
Ninety-six people have been shot in Wilmington this year, 23 percent more than the 78 shot by Aug. 13 last year. There were 119 people shot in the city in 2012, 25 fatally. There have been 12 homicides, including two stabbings, in the city this year.
Just up the street in Philly, they are seeing serious reductions in homicides and shootings as a result of clearly different tactics. And a violent community in NY that comes together around solving a shared problem achieves no shootings for 363 days. So we know it’s possible. What we don’t know is who will just get out of the way and help get it done.