WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – There was unanimous support from leaders in the city of Wilmington Tuesday night for additional resources to help police push back against gang violence.
A vote of 6-0 approved more than $142,000 for the Wilmington Police Department to create a gang investigation unit. Police Chief Ralph Evangelous spoke to city council before the vote, saying the officers involved will dismantle gang networks with surveillance and investigations.
"We're in a situation now where we need all the help we can get out there in the field," said Evangelous. "Our officers are running ragged out there."
The chief said WPD is currently in a maximum uniform deployment, which assigns officers to duties that are not under their usual list of responsibilities. Evangelous said the priority is gangs, and this new investigation unit will help in the long run.
"We got to put up or shut up," said the police chief. "We got what we asked for and now we got to go do it."
The unit will consist of one sergeant, four detectives and an intelligence position that will be covered in next year's budget. Evangelous said it should be operational within the next six weeks.
Tuesday's meeting included an update from WPD on the police chief's previous request for additional resources.
Evangelous asked city leaders to fund a Mobile Field Force earlier this year in response to a surge in robberies. Council supported the project and the unit was up and running by May 2013.
Since then, Evangelous said the work of the Mobile Field Force has resulted in 52 felony arrests, 167 misdemeanor arrests and about 63 citations.
The group specializes in surveillance, according to the chief. He said these officers have completed 32 surveillance operations and they're working around the clock to keep the community safe.
"These surveillances sometime go on for days or weeks at a time," he said. "It's not like TV when you get it done in an hour."
The group worked with WPD's Operation Tranquility effort to reduce gun violence, which pulled 33 firearms off the streets, according to the chief.
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