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Gun violence study gives Wilmington policymakers recommendations for prevention and intervention

Delaware Public Media

A long-awaited report about gun violence prevention and intervention in Wilmington was released by city officials last week.

The study, done by the Community Based Public Safety Collective from Newark, New Jersey, not only looked at hard data, but the root causes of it.

Murders in Wilmington increased 26% in 2021, but shootings decreased by 13%. Out of 285 people arrested on gun charges, 45 were juveniles. This year, Wilmington had 33 shootings from January to May, leaving 33 wounded and 7 killed.

CBPS Director Elizabeth Ruebman says people engaged in violence have often been harmed and impacted by multigenerational racial injustice.

“And you combine generations of structural violence really caused by the racism in this country, combined with the proliferation of guns," Ruebman said. "You have people who are isolated socially, economically, and physically and you give easy access to guns and we see violence problems.”

A survey of 20 front line workers from the Group Violence Intervention model and the Center for Structural Equity found inadequate relocation services, a need for transferable housing vouchers, a lack of housing and employment and mental health support for clients.

Funding for gun violence prevention programs is slim, and CBPS recommends more for the state victim compensation system and trauma recovery centers too. The report also says stakeholders need a deeper understanding of trauma and its roots in the community.

Reubman says the city needs to build out victim services as a preventative measure.

“People definitely know each other and we were told repeatedly there is no place to hide," Ruebman said. "And often when people become injured, when they are shot, they are either reinjured or they engage in preventive violence. And the easy visibility makes it really easy to become reinjured, to become the victim of a retaliatory shooting, or a repeat victimization.”

CBPS recommended policymakers do site visits to GVI organizations, and to create more of them. The report adds youth leadership and development programs connected to street violence are essential for violence intervention.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.