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WPD and NHCSO reassigning officers to FBI task force to fight gang violence, aim for more federal prosecution

Promotional image for the FBI Safe Streets Task Force from the Wilmington Police Department's Instagram page.

According to the Wilmington Police Department, both the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office and WPD are currently "reassigning gang unit officers to the FBI Safe Streets Task Force in an effort to curb violence," with a focus on violent crime and gang or gang-related activity.

The Wilmington-area 'Safe Streets and Gang Unit' is one of 160 similar task forces operating around the country, including three others in North Carolina (Charlotte, Piedmont Triad, and Raleigh-Durham). These units work with local law enforcement but focus on obtaining federal convictions — which carry considerably more serious prison sentences — for offenses like racketeering, drug conspiracies, and federal firearms violations.

The task forces also serve as centralized investigative hubs in an attempt to reduce the amount of duplicated work done by local law enforcement agencies.

The Safe Streets task force has operated in Wilmington for years; WPD's announcement isn't a new program but does indicate an increased commitment.

In a statement, Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams said, "WPD is committed to working with both our federal and county partners as we enforce the law. This task force is another step forward in the unification of our law enforcement community and it will play an integral part in how our officers respond to gang violence.”