Six Wilmingtonians are running for three open spots on their city’s council. And curbing Wilmington’s highly publicized crime rate is a top priority for each. The hopefuls agree that higher police officer pay would fortify intervention efforts; however, they have disparate ideas when it comes to preventing the root causes of crime. The value of youth-oriented social services is the source of greatest contention.
According to incumbent councilman Kevin O’Grady, most of the criticism directed toward the council involves its funding of social service agencies. O’Grady says Wilmington’s recent spike in gun violence, however, just proves the how vital it is to fund programs addressing youth illiteracy, sexual abuse and homelessness. Candidate Derek Bickel agrees, and says such services should be targeting kids as young as six years old.
"I think we also need to get these programs inside the communities. Because not everyone has transportation to get to a program like a Dreams. So we need to foster and create these programs inside communities such as Creekwood, such as Houston Moore, so we get to the program inside the communities where at-risk children live, and make it accessible for everyone."
Candidate Skip Watkins, however, prefers to seek crime prevention assistance from corporations, neighborhood volunteers and public schools.
"It’s hard to get to a program; it’s expensive to do a program. There’s no hope; there’s a high level of unemployment in many of these areas. So I would hope to work with the Boards of Education and try to find a--it’s called a Career and Technical Track. And it’s proven, research has proven that it helps retain a lower dropout rate."
Incumbent Earl Sheridan says social services are a crucial component of public safety, and says he wants to reinstitute mobile police units called Neighborhood Area Base, or NAB, Stations. Candidate Felix Cooper is a proponent of further consolidation of city and county safety operations.