WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Dozens of officers with the Wilmington Police Department hit the streets in full force Wednesday night to carry out "Operation Tranquility."
The task force will focus on ending the violence connected to gang activity, according to Captain Jim Varrone with WPD.
"We're going after troublemakers, not the neighbors," he said. "We want the families to feel like it's safe to go sit out in their front yard or their back yard and just relax."
Members of the task force, including agents from the FBI, DEA and ATF, will not have much time to relax. They'll be working around the clock to corral high-ranking gang members and follow any leads on open cases.
Police initially increased their presence in several neighborhoods around the city, as the first phase of a three-part strategy. Phase two is Operation Tranquility, which will go beyond the public housing communities like Creekwood, Hillcrest and Houston Moore.
"There are communities in between that have also suffered from all of this" said Varrone. "We're going to go wherever out investigation takes us."
Police Chief Ralph Evangelous, clergy members and community supporters held a conference last month, asking gang members to cease fire for 90 days. The plea stemmed from an alarming number of shootings reported in June.
Since January, there have been more than 270 reports of gunshots in Wilmington. Police said those shots were picked up by Shot Spotter technology or reported by people who called 911.
"The citizens of Wilmington have a right to enjoy peace, quiet and safety in their homes," said Evangelous. "Our goal is to help them to return to some form of normalcy".
Violent and gun-related crimes are a priority, according to Varrone. He said some community members are beginning to understand as they help, sometimes anonymously, to inform police.
"We are having people to open up and give us information recently that's helping us to put the pieces of these cases together," he said.
Varrone added that he's confident in work the task force will do in the next 30 days. After that comes phase three, which is a review of phase two. Varrone said if the results aren't enough, the task force will continue to operate.
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