WPD Emphasis on High-Risk Offenders and Ongoing Partnerships With Other Agencies Produce Some Encouraging 2011 Crime Results

Posted on  01/30/2012 3:15 pm

The Wilmington Police Department’s continuing emphasis on tracking and arresting high-risk offenders produced some encouraging crime reduction results in 2011 according to Police Chief Michael J. Szczerba. The Chief also said today that his department’s efforts as well as joint operations with other police agencies to continue to reduce the number of high-risk offenders in Wilmington who are committing the majority of the crime.

For 2011, Chief Szczerba said despite the fact that the City’s homicide total of 28 was only one less than in 2010, and while total homicides committed by the use of a gun dropped by only one to 22 compared to 2010, there were still some very encouraging results related to the use of guns, which include:

  • Shooting incidents dropped by 39% to a total of 66 from a record total of 109 in 2010.
    This is the lowest number of shootings in the City for the past six years.
  • Shooting victims dropped by 33% to a total of 95 from a record total of 142 in 2010.
    This is the lowest number of shooting victims for the past seven years.

Chief Szczerba said other positive crime developments in 2011 include:

  • A 31% decrease in robberies (427 versus 627 in 2010)
  • A 3% decrease in burglaries (1126 versus 1160 in 2010)
  • An 4% increase in gun seizures (219 versus 211 in 2010)

The Chief also expressed his appreciation to Operation Safe Streets (OSS), a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement unit attached to the Wilmington Police Department’s Drug Organized Crime and Vice Division. OSS is charged with tracking the activities of probationers and high-risk offenders, who average approximately 300 individuals in a given year.

During 2011, OSS executed 224 warrants, arrested 114 fugitives, and cleared 248 local warrants. OSS also seized $64,546.00 in currency, illegal drugs with a street value of $102,986.00, and 18 firearms. The unit also produced a 17% increase in curfew checks (2,481 curfew checks in 2011 versus 2,107 in 2010). This additional effort led to a 64% compliance rate meaning that the behavior of high-risk offenders and probationers is being monitored better and held in check more often.

The Chief today joined Mayor James M. Baker in thanking the men and women of the WPD for their outstanding efforts in 2011, which they termed “remarkable.” They agreed that the term “remarkable” is clearly appropriate when you take into account how the continuing and growing national urban violence crime problem has affected Wilmington and thousands of other cities in recent years. They said the crime problem is caused by too many people possessing and using guns, too many people being addicted to drugs, too many people being released on insignificant bail after being arrested. They added that too many people are also being sentenced to short jail terms and then reoffending because they are not rehabilitated and therefore not prepared to return to the community.

The officials also thanked other law enforcement agencies that supported the WPD’s crime fighting efforts, and continue to partner with the WPD in 2012, including the Delaware State Police, State Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement, FBI, DEA, Delaware Attorney General’s Office, State Office of Probation and Parole/Operation Safe Streets, the New Castle County DUI Strike Force, and the State Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services.

Mayor Baker and Chief Szczerba are calling for a dialogue with officials in the State court system about adopting a cash bail standard similar to a standard established recently in St. Louis, Missouri. Some courts in that City require suspects arrested for gun-related offenses to post substantial cash bail (approximately $30,000) before they are released from custody pending adjudication. The Mayor and Chief also urged lawmakers to limit the sale of handguns in Delaware to one per month per person.

“Our shooting statistics and investigations show that the best way to achieve immediate community safety is to keep gun offenders in jail while awaiting trial,” said Chief Szczerba. “Our goal of ensuring immediate safety for the community would also extend to the gun offender because all too often, today’s gun offender is Wilmington’s next shooting victim or homicide statistic.”

Mayor Baker echoed the Chief’s sentiments. “Substantial cash bail for gun offenders would set a new standard of safety for our neighborhoods,” said the Mayor. “Sometimes you just have to do what common sense and good police work indicates you ought to do—keep repeat gun offenders off the streets until they are adjudicated. If they get out of jail, chances are that someone, or even the gun offender, will get hurt or killed.”

“There are a lot of good people working every day to stop the shooting,” said the Mayor’s Chief of Staff William S. Montgomery. “Whether it’s suggesting new laws or procedures here at home, or continuing our productive joint police and community operations, or looking elsewhere for crime prevention plans that produce real results, we all know that that the gun violence must stop, and the drug markets need to be closed down permanently.”

To that end, Montgomery announced today he will lead a delegation of City law enforcement and State social service officials to High Point, North Carolina early next month to learn more about a program there that has produced dramatically lower rates of crime and violence.

“After consulting with Dr. David Kennedy, a leading national expert on urban crime and violence, we will visit High Point next week and review a police and community-based crime program that has produced encouraging results.” said Montgomery. “Dr. Kennedy tells us that the High Point program is one of the best examples of the approach to crime that he has championed across the country. We will spend a few days talking to High Point Police officials and well as people in the local community to determine if we can apply the principles of this program in Wilmington and focus even more energy on stopping people from using weapons.”

WPD High Risk Offender Strategy/Interagency Working Group

The WPD conducts an ongoing, comprehensive analysis of violent crimes committed in Wilmington, especially those that involve organized drug and gang activity as well as violent offenders (persons with a criminal history of gun related offenses). The WPD teams with a group of Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies as part of a more coordinated strategy to reduce violent crime and gun related violence.

The Wilmington Police Intelligence Unit has identified, targeted and arrested scores of high-risk offenders over the past few years that live in Wilmington and/or conduct their criminal activities in the City.

The list of individuals monitored continuously through the WPD’s High Risk Offender Program averages about 50 or more people each year. The overall number of offenders on the list at any one time remains fluid, depending on many factors including the number of arrests made, new intelligence information that identifies other offenders who are then added to the list and sentencing results.