Wilmington lawmakers work to reach consensus on public safety
Mayor Williams and The Wilmington City Council are working to come together behind the administration’s new public safety plan, but there are still details to me ironed out.
The Williams Administration is asking council to approve an amendment funding four new police department positions—two Police Inspectors as well as a Chief Information Officer and a Communications Director.
The budget amendment would provide the over $800,000 needed to pay for the new jobs by cutting police overtime funding and reducing the city’s projected budget surplus for Fiscal Year 2016. About $400,000 would be trimmed from each of those sources to make the plan work. The budget amendment will be introduced at tonight’s City Council meeting - but no timetable has been set for committee review or a vote.
City Council President Theo Gregory says in return, council is asking the mayor to adopt some measures they see as vital to public safety.
One is the creation of a “neutral, non-police department site where complaints can be filed in person.” Currently, residents with complaints file them in person at the department.
Gregory adds that council also wants the administration to identify funding for up to date technology to help solve more crimes, including the 86 percent of homicides that go unsolved each year.
"We have to move into 2015 and do a better job of coordinating the intelligence information. And we have to capture that data in real time to ensure that it’s getting to the street immediately so it can be processed and we can catch the bad guys," said Gregory.
Gregory concedes that negotiating with the Mayor’s Office on new public safety initiatives has been “contentious...to some extent,” but that at this point in time they are “going to the community….as a unified legislative and executive branch of government.”
In a statement, Mayor Williams also sounded an optimistic note.
“Tackling violent crime in Wilmington will require not only leadership, but coordinated and collaborative efforts by the Administration, City Council, law enforcement officials, business leaders and community stakeholders,” said Williams. “I thank Council President Gregory and the members of Council for their willingness to take action and work towards making our City and citizens safer, as the Wilmington Police Department looks to continue the implementation of Chief Cummings’ public safety plan.”
The budget amendment will be introduced at Thursday night’s City Council meeting. No timetable is set yet for a committee hearing or vote.