A new 14-person housing unit to combat Wilmington's recent
increase in gang violence will be finalized over the next week, combining law
enforcement officials from the city and New Hanover County.
At a press conference held at Wilmington City Hall on Oct. 14, city and county officials addressed the recent rash of gang-related violence,
which included last week’s shooting of a county sheriff’s deputy and Sunday’s
subsequent killing of the suspect by deputies involved in the case.
Sgt. J.J. Brewer from the county sheriff’s office explained
at the beginning of the meeting that the initiative was related to those events.
Evangelous added that in the past several months, local officers have made more
than 100 arrests connected to gang activity. He told reporters at the press
conference the gang violence is a result of an ongoing feud between the city’s
Bloods and Crips.
“These groups, and certain sects, are battling over women,
drugs and territory,” Brewer said. “They also launched an effort to retaliate
against witnesses in one of our gang-related cases.”
The new unit will comprise seven city police officers and
seven sheriff’s deputies. Evangelous added that 32 non-patrol officers from each of the two
local law enforcement agencies will be used to expand patrols throughout
Wilmington. Those officers will be taken from currently non-patrol law enforcement positions.
Mayor Bill Saffo also spoke, telling those gathered in the
room, “this is not the city, this is not the county. This is the community. And
the community has to come together to address this very important and serious
During an Oct. 15 meeting, Saffo and the rest of city council
will consider an agenda item to appropriate $142,381 in city property tax
collections for the creation of an investigative gang unit, including one
computer support specialist and the addition of 10 over hire officer positions
within the city police department.
“Crime does not know borders,” New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Woody White said. “It’s important that we all focus and work together,
continuing the tradition that we have over many years of joining hand in hand
to solve problems."
Evangelous also thanked citizens for their help fighting the rise in gang violence, specifically referring to
the numerous texts, emails and phone calls that have contributed to the
department’s enforcement abilities.
New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon emphasized a focus on
building relationships within the affected communities.
“We’re going to gain
their trust, and we’re going to show the criminal element that we will not
tolerate this anymore,” McMahon said. “It’s got to be the community. It can’t
just be us.”