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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – The community is at odds over who should step up and help fight the ongoing violence downtown and it seems everyone is pointing a finger at someone else to come up with solutions.

Some say it’s the Police Department’s job, but Chief Ralph Evangelous said Monday he’s got as many officers downtown on the weekends as he can spare, and says the teens and 20-something’s who constantly fight should take responsibility for themselves.

Bar owners we’ve heard from say what happens after patrons leave their bar is not their problem.

And still others say city leaders should step up and come up with solutions. But Mayor Bill Saffo points his finger back at the bar owners and says they should take more responsibilities for their customers. He told a local TV station Tuesday that he’s asking owners and employees to have stricter policies and to step up security.

This is the same mayor that back in September said at a city council session that it was the media’s fault for creating an image of downtown as being a violent place. “If it’s a slow news day and something is going on at the bars, it’s going to get attention,” Saffo said Tuesday night. “Unfortunately the perception of downtown is that it’s violent. I can tell you I’ve walked down late hours, and I’ve never been bothered, but if it bleeds it leads.” When we asked him to clarify what he meant, he quickly backtracked saying, “I’m not blaming it on the media. If it was taken that way, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to go that way, and I probably shouldn’t have said that. I think the media’s helped us in shedding light on some of the problems.”

Saffo says he hopes state lawmakers will give local leaders the authority to close down bars where there is on-going violence and says the North Carolina ABC Board has helped by not allowing more bars to open downtown.

Comment on this Story

  • GuestLee

    I never go downtown anymore because of the crowds and violence. Downtown is slowly dying because no one will crack down on the young thugs that are now running the place. Want to see downtown improve and grow? Get rid of the bars and the hundreds of young punks hanging out around them.

  • downtownmerchant

    Ok, so here are a few items that need to be clarified, and possibly some ideas to help.
    -There are 2-4 establishments that are the problem downtown- these places cater to a young and undesirable crowd. Its not a coincedence that all of these incidents happen at the same corner; 2nd and market. The Rhino and Rox seem to be the culprits. The club owners will continue to let in underage patrons because of the money that they can charge for admission at the door. They make a ton of money at the door and use little product at the bar. Why would they stop doing it?
    -what needs to happen:
    A magistrate needs to be put downtown. There are a number of vacant stores downtown that could be converted into a holding cell and a magistrates office. Once a crime is committed the criminal is brought to the holding area and goes immediately before a judge. This will do two things: take the criminal element off the street quickly, as they will either be cited with a ticket, or transported to the jail when the downtown holding area fills up, or after 3 AM when things are starting to wind down. It will also put give Wilmington’s downtown clean up some “teeth”.
    The second thing that must occur is a ZERO tolerance policy must go into effect. IF a person is observed urinating, puking, being drunk and disorderly, instigating a fight, LOITERING, fighting etc, they MUST be taken into custody immediately, and brought before the magistrate. This will be an extremely hard process in the begining however it is a process that must be done. Once people realize that their behavior will be tied to a consequence, that behavior then starts to change. Young and old people alike know that you dont drive over the bridge to wrightsville beach (in either direction) after drinking or cause a nusance because of the zero tolerance policy of the Wrightsville beach cops have on drinking and driving as well a public drunkiness.
    It will take some new thinking to fix the problems downtown-

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