As Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy reaches his one-year mark on the job, city officials report that gun violence is down.
Year-to-date gun homicides and shootings in Wilmington are each down more than 60 percent compared to last year, according to last week’s report. Chief Robert Tracy says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about those numbers.
“I’m very reserved and … I’d like to see this go on for a longer trend. I’d like to institutionalize things, but at the same time this is some positive news that I think the community needs to hear," he said. "I think that they’re feeling safer.”
But Michaelena DeJesus, community organizer for Wilmington-based nonprofit 302gunsdown, says things don’t feel different enough yet.
“It just takes time to change any culture,” she said. “As far as actually knowing what it feels like and hearing the constant people, you know, that are either shot or... It feels constant.”
DeJesus does see Chief Tracy’s commitment to community policing as progress.
But she notes some residents are still dissatisfied with the Department’s process for filing complaints against officers and with its communication to family members during investigations.
She also worries that warmer weather may bring more violent crime in the city.
"Realistically all it takes is one or two rival retaliations, and then we have a whole domino effect," she said.
While Chief Tracy is careful not to oversell the report, he hopes the statistics reflect changes he’s made to the department, like getting officers to be more connected to the communities they patrol.
“I want them out of the cars, with their hat on, walking foot posts in the same district that they’re going to work every single time that they work.”
DeJesus says that having officers consistently responsible for the same district also helps the community identify "troubled officers" who consistently abuse their power.
She notes that the Police Department is not alone in working to reduce city gun violence.
She says several grassroots groups and community leaders are working together to link at-risk teens with mental health services and constructive outlets.
"We kind of all just work together as a village," said DeJesus.
As of May 6th, Wilmington had seen 24 shootings this year. The Police Department’s website reported at least two more last week, including one fatality. CompStat reports, which show year-to-date crime and shooting statistics, can be found here.