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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — As expected, the New Hanover County ABC Board will pull back its funding to Wilmington’s Downtown Task Force.

The phasing out will happen gradually over the next few years. So what does this mean for your safety, and what does law enforcement think?

Bartender and bouncer Mark Williams say an increased law enforcement presence downtown makes a difference?

“They see a cop with handcuffs and a badge and all that. They are someone that can really get them in trouble. They tend to listen to them more,” Williams said.

But with the ABC Board phasing out its $180,000 a year contribution, folks may see less of a law enforcement presence downtown.

“We looked at our budget. We are taking on some projects here, and it is a cash flow issue,” ABC Board Chair Cedric Dickerson said.

The board voted to reduce its funding to the task force $60,000 a year.

By law, Dickerson says, they are mandated to give five percent of their budget to law enforcement, and the board is giving 12 percent.

“We want to do our part, and I think we are doing a little bit more than our part,” Dickerson said.

The loss in funding means the loss of three New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputy positions over the next several years to help with WPD’s downtown patrols.

Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous says the crime rate downtown is down 69 percent since the early 2000s.

“We can’t relent right now,” he said. “We have to stay the course in this.”

Dickerson agrees.

“We don’t want the progress we’ve made downtown to reverse in anyway,” he said.

To make sure law enforcement’s progress does not take a hit along with the funding, Evangelous says New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon has talked to the county manager to see where else they can get the money.

“I am pretty confident that this will stay in place,” Evangelous said. “I know the sheriff is committed to do everything in his power to make it happen.”

The ABC Board says it first started its contribution to the task force in 2011 as a one-year committment.

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