WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Leaders in the city of Wilmington support a plan to keep validated gang members out of public parks, but they agreed Tuesday night that the proposed ban needs more work.
Several council members spoke about the wording of the ban being too vague. Councilman Kevin O'Grady said the language needs to be able to hold up in court.
"We're going to get challenged on this," he said. "And I want to win."
The policy director for ACLU-NC attended the council meeting. The organization sent city leaders a letter of opposition earlier in the week. Sarah Preston said there are better ways for city leaders to combat on-going issues with gangs.
"Really what they need to be targeting is deterrents in young people from entering the gang in the first place," she said. "Putting efforts there is going to be much more successful really, ultimately, than trying to discourage people from hanging out in parks."
Several incidents involving gang members in public parks is what prompted the proposed ban. One incident involved a small child finding a loaded gun.
Chief of Police Ralph Evangelous said Tuesday that delaying the ban would not be a problem. Still, he said it's time to "get our head out of the sand."
"We have had multiple incidents where we got called to a location, we got there and dispersed people," said Evangelous. "Twenty minutes later, there's a shooting, multiple shootings occur with that same group of people."
Preston, along with several council members, expressed the need for the revised ban to focus on an individual's action, not his appearance.
The list of more than 300 validated gang members in New Hanover County would be used like the trespassing list for the Wilmington Housing Authority, according to Evangelous. He said officers would only approach an individual if he is a known, validated gang member.
There are roughly 100 potential gang members still pending in the validation process, according to a spokesperson for WPD. She said the backup comes from a lack of clerical staff. There is not a full-time position for the paperwork, so officers have to complete it when they're not patrolling the streets.
City leaders will revisit the updated proposal for banning validated gang members next month.
Copyright 2013 WECT. All rights reserved.
322 Shipyard Boulevard