Police power and responsible citizens

Local Wilmington, N. C. city police and county sheriffs’ have plenty of staff and equipment to respond when an officer is shot, but apparently inadequate resources to help prevent “escalating gang violence” concentrated a small area of Wilmington where most of the potentially violent individuals are easily recognizable and operating in a government housing development.

The Wilmington StarNews Editorial Board notes that recently after a New Hanover County sheriff detective was shot “a large contingent” of law enforcement officers made a “show of force,” including an armored truck. The Board correctly wonders if that was “really necessary.” We don’t know if the city’s helicopter air force was deployed. (link)

Yet rather than focus plentiful existing resources on the problem area, Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous wants the city council to give him an additional $142,000 to spend on an “investigative unit.”

Earlier this year the council authorized spending nearly $310,000—fully funded in the 2013-14 budget—for “a special force…to combat crime across the city,” according to a Wilmington StarNews article about gang violence. In this city of about 100,000 people there is no need to “combat” violent criminal gangs “across the city”—young, black male thugs operate in a specific place within the urban core. (link)

Yet, presumably, this “Mobile Field Force” wanders randomly about the city limits on a mission to “allay fears and reduce crime” (in my experience involving mostly traffic violations, and an occasional robbery and assault).

Strangely, the newly proposed unit would not directly be used to support gang violence: nearly $79,000 of requested funds would be used to buy “uniforms and equipment” for 10 vacant positions. As I understand the StarNews report, uniforms and equipment would only go into action “if there is a vacancy and after six months of “required training.” The $64,000 balance of the police request to investigate would be spent on wages and benefits to a “civilian computer support specialist.”

It seems to me that rather than buying more equipment and adding support staff, the police should concentrate time and resources walking streets in the crime area. One wonders about their competence or willingness by them to aggressively deal with violent people in Creekwood.

I know this is a difficult problem; it’s scary to confront violent criminals, and the police may not be able to do anything about prevention, but spending more money is clearly not the solution. Even the StarNews Editorial Board recognizes the problem, although they dance around solutions.

Apparently, the residents of Creekwood are unable or unwilling to defend themselves against the gang predators, although black ministers have “pleaded for a cease-fire” and some residents have “spoken out.” But few of them talk to the police, indicating a lack of confidence. The feckless city council’s solution is to ban gang members from a downtown park.

Until residents in and around Creekwood and Wilmington police aggressively, directly and persistently identify, confront and rid the area of the violent, young black males, I predict little will be done to solve the obvious problem; except spending more money to expand police power—moving dangerously toward a paramilitary force.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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