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U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch visits Wilmington, discusses violence reduction

Megan Pauly
Delaware Public Media
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch discusses juvenile justice with Delaware Senator Chris Coons Monday morning.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch participated in a town hall on criminal justice reform in Wilmington Monday.


Lynch’s visit comes two years after Wilmington received federal DOJ support to address violent crime.


Wilmington was one of the first five cities selected for the federal Violence Reduction Network in 2014. Lynch says its goal is to equips cities with the full range of DOJ assistance, from technical support to training to grant funding.


“It really is a lottery that no one wants to win," Lynch said. "Because what it means is that you are a city that has a crime rate that is several multiples the national average.”


Though its homicide rate has remained about the same as it was in 2014, Lynch calls Wilmington a success because its homicide case clearance is up at least 40 percent.


“Which gives families closure, it lets communities see that in fact, when community members do suffer homicides, law enforcement will pay attention," she said.


Lynch added VRN helped Wilmington address its police infrastructure, and lack of trust between communities and law enforcement - while building cooperation between local, state and federal agencies to target "criminal actors." She says these things help keep homicide rates down.


Senator Chris Coons added that VRN has been especially helpful in the area of officer training, helping connect Wilmington officers to those in other cities like Baltimore, MD and Richmond, VA - as well as a federal allocation of resources in areas like ballistics analysis.


"A better partnership with ATF led to their better handling of ballistic evidence," Coons said. "Better relationships with ATF, with DEA, with US Marshals and with FBI have resulted in the kind of multi-party cases being brought forward that we hadn't seen as much before."


Wilmington has since graduated from VRN and is now in what Lynch calls a “sustainability phase” during which it will help support cities in the 2016 Violence Reduction Network program.


But Lynch notes Wilmington Police Department will continue to receive federal support to address other issues such as ongoing gang problems. Wilmington will also continue its involvement with HIDTA, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program, and other federal task forces.


The conversation also hit on a variety of other topics - including reentry programs.


Lynch says that over the past six years, the federal Department of Justice has made reentry a priority.


“Every inmate has – when they enter prison – a program that is designed to prepare them to leave a better citizen than they came in," she said.


Lynch says that means focusing on education, learning disabilities, job training and mental health.


The need for more police officers with mental health training was also discussed.


Lynch also spent time touring the Wilmington Police Department and the Children’s Advocacy Center at Nemours/AI DuPont Hospital for Children with Senator Chris Coons.



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