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City officials are "making every effort" to reduce gun violence in Wilmington, Mayor Mike Purzycki said in a statement Friday at the end of a seven-day period that saw eight people shot in the city.
Data still point to a decline in homicides and shootings in Wilmington over the past five years, the statement said.
But homicides, shootings and rapes increased between 2018 and 2019, especially shootings with juvenile victims.
According to Delaware Online/The News Journal's database, 22 people have been shot since the beginning of the year, four of them fatally.
Those are higher numbers than during the same period of time both last year and in 2018, but lower than in 2017, Wilmington's most violent year.
“Every crime-fighting tool available is being used every day by the men and women of the Wilmington Police Department to remove guns from our streets and to arrest those illegally carrying guns — all in an effort to prevent gun-related crime from occurring,” Purzycki said. “However, even the best law enforcement system in the country will not be totally effective against illegal guns."
The mayor also listed as drivers of gun violence "repeat offenders who, in some cases have been victims of gun violence and then turn around and shoot others, a seemingly unstoppable and powerful national gun lobby, entrenched poverty, lack of education and housing, and untreated physical and mental health issues."
Purzycki does not often issue statements in response to shootings in Wilmington. Under his pick for police chief, Robert Tracy, the Police Department has reduced the amount of information it provides to the public about violent crime.
In his statement, Purzycki also assured the public the Police Department is "making more arrests, seizing more illegal weapons, solving crimes at a much higher rate."
"While all of that is well and good, of course, the recent uptick in gun-related incidents is unsettling and must be resolved so people feel safe and are safe," he said.
Eight people were shot in the city in the past seven days, including a 19-year-old man outside the H. Fletcher Brown Boys and Girls Club on Thursday evening and three young men ages 16, 19 and 23 the night before on the East Side.
One violence reduction program that Wilmington tried before but which Tracy has re-instituted is Group Violence Intervention, a partnership with state officials and criminologist David Kennedy.
The program, run by former Chief Bobby Cummings through the Department of Health and Social Services, calls in those suspected of driving violence in Wilmington and offers them an array of social assistance — with the threat of prosecution if the violence continues.
The program was launched last July, and officials said it's still in its early stages. At a state budget hearing this week, Cummings said the first meeting between officials and suspects was held December and included an offer of assistance to 16 individuals.
Ten of them showed up for the meeting, Cummings said, and some were interested in state rental assistance. Meetings are likely to be held every three months.
"None have been involved in further violence to this date, but members of their groups do continue," Cummings said.
Nick Perez contributed to this story. Jeanne Kuang covers Wilmington for The News Journal. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (302) 324-2476.