WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The number of reported shots fired in the Wilmington area is at a high for 2013. So far in June, Shot Spotter technology with the Wilmington Police Department has picked up more than 65 shootings, making it the busiest month this year.
Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said authorities are dealing with gangs on two sides of town who are both claiming to be of the same "Blood" affiliation. He attributes most of the recent violence to retaliations for previous crimes.
In an effort to combat the recent spike in gun violence, Evangelous is calling in off-duty officers to patrol the streets.
"This is overtime," explained Evangelous. "We are not going to attach a cost to people's lives and safety."
According to the chief, at least a dozen officers will be in five trouble-neighborhood locations starting Friday night, patrolling on foot and in cars.
"We are going to be out there as long as we need to be," said Evangelous. "We have murderers walking the street that need to be brought to justice."
Evangelous said the public needs to speak up to help officers bring these people into custody, but many won't in fear of sparking retaliation.
"You have a moral obligation to society do the right thing," said Evangelous. "We need the one more piece to close these cases."
The chief went on to say, "The public knows what's going on, they know who the players are."
Evangelous said the spike in shootings is a localized problem and it's no secret where these spots are, as they have been problem spots for decades.
The chief identified the housing communities of Creekwood, Houston Moore, along with areas around North Tenth Street and 12th and Chestnut as the focus areas.
"If you want your neighborhoods back, if you want your hoods safe - you have to help us," Evangelous said.
Friday, Chief Evangelous sent the following memo to City Manager Sterling Cheatham:
Recently we have experienced an upswing in firearm discharges and citizens being shot and in some cases killed. With this in mind, we are using off-duty personnel to patrol on foot and in cars in the hotspot neighborhoods most affected by this recent gun violence. There are several specific neighborhoods affected. This will supplement our regularly assigned patrol officers.
One of the reasons we have to supplement patrol is that we have 19 police officer position vacancies. This number does not include officers in field training, long term sick or injured and FMLA leave. We are processing certified officers and hope to actually hire them by mid-July.
These efforts will allow us to be visible to our citizens who live in or near the areas of the recent gunfire and increase opportunities for our citizens to share valuable information with us.
By providing these positive community contacts and working directly with residents, we can bring closure regarding the upswing in firearm related concerns.
We need the public's partnership, their eyes and ears. Their cooperation is paramount in order for us to be effective.
This staffing plan will be in place until further notice.
Anyone with information about the shootings is asked to call the WPD at 910-343-3600. You can also anonymously submit a tip using Text-A-Tip by texting "Tip708" and the information to 274637.