On Tuesday night, the Wilmington Public Safety Strategy Commission heard the findings of outside consultants from the Police Foundation and Vigilant Resources International about how to improve the the city’s police department.
The consultants - while praising Police Chief Cummings for his openness - called for substantial changes in how the city’s police staff and technology are used to reduce crime in a 200 page report.
They first dispelled the notion that Wilmington has a police shortage, saying that in fact, the ratio of cops to citizens is actually one of the highest in the country. They added that the new program Operation Disrupt, though it has reduced shootings in the city, isn’t worth the resources needed to staff it.
They instead recommend a community stabilization unit with eight police officers and a few higher ranking positions.
When dealing with homicides, the numbers show the department is struggling. Last year, the police department solved 14.6% of murders, while the national average is four times that, at 64%.
"I think what the police department needs to do, and what Chief Cummings is certainly open to, is using technology and developing the kind of investigators in a homicide and violent crime unit that will be able to reduce crime and solve violent homicides," said Howard Safir, the former New York City Police Commissioner turned independent consultant. He also suggested developing a detective career track for cops, something most police departments already have.
The report also said that the Department needs to work on improving community relations in minority communities and make anonymous crime tips truly anonymous to become more effective.
"The citizens have to be favorable to the cops and trust the cops. And the criminals have to understand that if they commit crime, there’s a certainty of arrest. That’s what I did in New York City, and that’s what I believe they can do here in Wilmington," said Safir.
During public comment, speakers like Wilmington resident Earl Daniels were emotional about finding ways to address high levels of crime in the city.
"Pray for our cops, and pray for everyone who’s trying to make the city of Wilmington a place we can all come back to. And walk our grandmoms and dogs down the street. I’m looking for that day again," he said
Gov. Jack Markell praised the report for providing easy, actionable steps to make change.
The Commission is meeting with Safir and Burch again in a few weeks, and the next step is to submit formal recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor.