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ONLY ON 3: Mayor Saffo blames media for "violent downtown" perception; then apologizes

READ MORE: ONLY ON 3: Mayor Saffo blames media for "violent downtown" perception; then apologizes

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- In the past several weeks in Downtown Wilmington, someone slashed a Marine with a razor blade, drunks hit a police horse and patrol car, and someone reported a man pulling a gun on bystanders. Despite the police reports to back this up, Mayor Bill Saffo blamed the media during last night's City Council meeting for creating the image of a violent downtown.

"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."

But when we asked him Wednesday to elaborate, he suddenly changed his story.

"I'm not blaming it on the media," the mayor said. "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."

Obviously the mayor and Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous are not on the same page. In an exclusive interview on WWAY last week, Evangelous acknowledged that downtown is safe a majority of the time, but on the weekends there are problems.

"We have a handful of bars that are problem bars for us; maybe three or four," Evangelous said during his appearance on WWAY NewsChannel 3 at 5:30 Sept. 15. "It is a safe place, downtown. I'm here to tell you we have virtually no crime till about midnight or so until about 3:00 in the morning. Other than that it's a great place."

As Saffo apologized and backtracked, he said he's human and was really frustrated with how people perceive downtown.

Tuesday night City Council voted unanimously to implement a new policy giving the city a bigger role in regulating the downtown bar scene. Any new downtown clubs will now be required to locate at least 330 feet away from the nearest bar. Council also decided to form a committee to review liquor license permit requests. The committee will have the authority to suspend or revoke permits and will notify landlords when a tenant has any sort of violation.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


Identify the problem, then solve it

There are certainly problems downtown, and they need to be addressed. At the same time, I'd agree with what WilmMAJ said; I think the media may be exaggerating and I feel usually safe downtown. When I go downtown, I just make sure to leave around 1am, way before the bars get out and stay away from the places where crime generally occurs. Most bars and restaurants are very responsible institutions that abide by the rules. Why is it that two to three bars cannot keep control of their clientele? Their failures should not damage the reputation of the entire downtown area. Here's a suggestion: Maybe the City Council should look at other cities that have had problems like this and if those cities were able to mitigate them. No need to reinvent the wheel.

wway what are you doing?

WWAY what are you doing? You get off on anything that has conflit! The man spoke the truth, you get your feeling hurt one time, even thoe, your hurting hundreds of people a day. How about start telling the people the great thing about downtown. Where ever there is 10,000 people around one another, there is going to be some problems. You just told ever police officer that they don't do anthing. STOP! Focus on the great thing of Wilmington. If not the hell with you and your ratings. Mayor Saffo great job keep up the great work!

They are reporting local news....

Do you bother to check your spelling at all? Kinda hard to make a point when you come off as an an uneducated cupcake.


Mayor Saffo, like many Wilmingtonians, has his head in the sand or choses to avoid reality. Downtown is violent with much public urination, open drinking, drugs and violent crime. The time to be there is between 12am and 3am. Go stand out in front of the clubs (Rox and Rhino to name two) and it is just an incident waiting to happen. Recently WPD said that they have to pull officers from other districts downtown and assist the extra duty officers working over-time assisting the beat officers. The WPD puts a lot of manpower downtown and leaves other areas of the city sparcely covered. All Saffo sees is the bar revenue.

The proof is in the Star News

As another poster wrote earlier I'd suggest that all of you who feel downtown is soooo safe start reading the reported crime map and accompanying keys.

No one is making anything up - the reports are all based upon actual events that really happen!

Saffo and his groupies are basically of the mindset, "The real crime is letting people know about the crime. It hurts our business ventures."

The media is ABSOLUTELY

The media is ABSOLUTELY responsible! Saffo is right.

Where is all this violence?

Ok, not to butt heads here but I have to say I just don't see the issues with downtown. I eat dinner downtown several nights a week, and occasionally go for a drink or two afterwards. Maybe a few times a year do I go out and "party" past 11, but in all those times I've never once seen a fight, public urination, or objectionable homeless person. I have to agree with Mayor Saffo on this one...the media focuses in on every single event that happens downtown and then reports on it ten times over. The fact of the matter is that there are issues no matter where you are or where you live. I was at the Mayfaire theater not long ago and all I could see where under-age kids smoking, cussing, and in general making fools of themselves. Does that mean Mayfaire is as bad as downtown?

Yes there are bars and clubs downtown, but guess what...thats life and they are legitimate businesses helping our local economy. If you don't like the downtown area at night...I suggest you stay out of it. I know I frequent it after dark and have never once felt unsafe walking to my car by myself or even going to an atm. My guess would be that most of the complainers either can't afford to go out to eat and enjoy downtown, or just don't want to go out and in either case...quit whining!

After midnight

The majority of issues have been stated to occur between the hours of midnight and 3am, particularly becoming an issue when bars close.

So, yes, it is quite common to go down there at dinner and not witness any unsavory activity. However, you are quite lucky to have always "felt safe" walking down there after dark to an ATM as that has been the story many have told until they became a statistic. So don't kid yourself- risky behavior is risky...continued risky behavior is just asking for trouble, especially when all the warning signs are there.

I never felt ill at ease either until my fiance and I were verbally accosted walking down Market Street to a nice restaurant in broad daylight at 6pm. Two "thugs" decided they didn't like the way my fiance looked (I guess) so they began hurling expletives at him and me, daring us to turn around and start a fight as we kept walking - meanwhile they kept continuing to scream at the corner of Front and Market, where families were literally walking down the sidewalk hearing these rantings. We had never seen these men before - EVER. We didn't even make eye contact with either one and weren't quite sure they were even talking to us until one guy took it upon himself to describe every item of clothing we were wearing so we knew he was talking to us. This time it was just screaming and hurling verbal insults - but get another person down there who tries to turn around and face such lunatics or a father who tries to shield his family from such behavior and you could have escalated violence almost immediately.

So yes, whether you want to see it or not, there is a concern with possible spillover into earlier hours once people realize they can get away with anything they want's already happening. Not to mention, it is hard to sell investors on a nice hotel at the convention center where people will be sleeping a couple of blocks away from drunks screaming and people getting assaulted.


A lot of the bar crowd doesn't arrive downtown till after 9. Are you there at 2 a.m. when the bars let out? My husband and I went downtown a while back on a cool Sunday morning to walk around. There was trash everywhere, beer cans broken glass and the smell of stale beer in the air. It was pretty nasty.

I know bars draw the younger crowds who tend not to behave. Then there are the ghetto crews who show up from total boredom to prey on the barflies.

Mayfaire LOL They need more bars. ;)

Not much between the ears

Saffo looks good in his suits with his pretty boy persona but Mr. Mayor , you are out of touch on many fronts. The only commendable thing this city has done in recent memory is hiring a competent police chief . Evangeous appears to be doing the best he can with the
"limited " resources at his disposal.Saffo is frustrated with how the downtown nightlife is perceived because it will further damage his convention center aspirations. The " local political machine " keeps Mr. Saffo in office. No doubt he is not the brightest star but he carries out the wishes of the power broker's agenda in our community.He has no trouble spending other people's money and annexing communities due to poor fiscal discipline.

Saffo's comments.......

Just want to remind everyone that your vote counts. So remember this incident when you next have an opportunity to select a NEW Mayor.

Saffo tells the truth.

Bill Saffo spoke the truth then retracted it.
I guess as a politician he doesn't want to get into the crosshairs of the WWAY yellow journalism machine.

Simply put, WWAY's sensationalized stories about the violence downtown are more often than not, reported incorrectly, with little regard for the truth, and many times actual lies, all in the name of ratings.

There are problems downtown, but is nowhere near as bad as many, who don't actually go downtown, believe.
An ISOLATED INCIDENT here and there is neither a plague nor pandemic.

The amount of violent crimes in this city, that do not get reported by WWAY, is staggering. However, if someone so much as jaywalks, it seems to be reported as gang warfare. I know that is an exaggeration...but you get the point.

And to the individual who says he only goes downtown "armed", you're being ridiculous.

I will walk downtown with anyone during the weekend nights in the "bar district" between Dock and Grace and be confident no problems occur.

Sorry, but you carry no credibility in your statements.

Evidently, you either cannot or do not read the variety of local news reporting. It is also evident that you either cannot or do not read the police reports that are provided as public information on a daily basis. Your evident lack of that ability to read and comprehend lends you with zero credibility and no basis in your post statements. Facts are plain facts and you just can't "talk" around them as you attempt.

WWAY reports the same crimes that the other media outlets report. These reports are derived from official police reports and possible interviews so that accuracy is maintained in that reporting. WWAY or any other news agency in this area is NOT going to print lies, heresay, speculation or interpretation of news events. It goes against the basic foundation of journalism and the credibility of the news stations and their reporting staff.

The facts are there in black and white for everyone to READ. Downtown brawls occur EVERY weekend. Rapes, murders, theft, drug crimes, forced home invasions, shootings, knifings and property damage occurances are commonplace and nowhere near "...isolated incidents..." as you refer to them.

Just be sure to remain informed that if by chance, you happen to be one of the perpretators that commits any these crimes aginst others, that more and more people are becoming trained and licensed to protect themselves with the use of deadly force. There may be a "surprise" waiting for you.

You are way off kilter.

WWAY is NOTORIOUS for printing lies to boost their ratings.
To think otherwise either makes you naive or a member of this so called "news" organization.

"Rapes, murders, theft, drug crimes, forced home invasions, shootings, knifings and property damage occurances are commonplace and nowhere near "...isolated incidents..."

You sure seem confident to post that these things are occuring regularly in the downtown area, which they do not, but if you feel so confident as to make such comments, please, post some links to these alleged crimes taking place.

In other words, put yoour money where your mouth is.

Downtown was nice in the 90s!

What has happened to downtown? I'm a Gen-Xer and spent quite a bit of time there in the mid-1990s. Lots of people from my age group did back then and it used to be a decent place to go for an evening's entertainment. Sure there was trouble every now and then, but nothing like what has happened lately.


I 100% agree with Saffo on this one. The Media in Wilmington is a f#@king joke. Reading these comments by you scared white people about the "violence" downtown proves that. Our media is just here to instill fear into people who are too lazy to search the real news out. if you think that just because they put it on the TV that is is true then you really don't deserve to comment on any of this..

I'm think back on 9/11 when our national coverage was cut into by John Evans speaking to a woman over the phone about a water spout on Carolina beach. They just couldn't wait to "report the news" When what was really pressing was the state of our nation.

As for the "Crime"... I would be willing to put money on the fact that the majority of the "criminals" arrested in wilmington are our "fine service men and woman" from outside of Wilmington. I have lived and walked these streets at all ours of the night and day and have personally never seen a single violent act (aside from the drunken brawls mainly involving marines). Of course if you pump a ton of jarheads full of alcohol and put them in a room with other people, loud music, and other muscle bound civilians trolling for females, someone is going to be provoked and blood will be shed. But just because it is LEGAL for idiots to let themselves get out of control doesn't mean we have a crime-ridden downtown.

I would also be willing to bet that the few of you who have commented on this thread have also never really traveled outside of Wilmington to a place that is truly stricken by violent crime. Judging by the fact that you not only trust the local news for your information but also make it a point to frequent their website to discuss the issues. After being forwarded this link, and seeing the story on the "news" i decided to see what was said on this comment section.

I suggest you people who think we have a big crime problem to visit Fayetteville, or DC, or maybe go out to San Fran and see the masses of homeless.. To watch hit and runs, and drive-bys and purse snatching. We have maybe 3 panhandlers, 1 local drunk who couldn't hurt a fly. the "thugs and druggies" know not to step out of line downtown because we always have the company of the "ever so necessary" Cops on Horses... God i could rant about that for hours but thats another post.

I hope you guys wake up and look elsewhere for your information. ANd be thankful that we have a city where you can walk down the streets at night without being harassed. Unless of course it's by a drunken soldier.


"you scared white people".... nice. I dont know where you live but I had a WHITE family member that lived on Mcrae street unfortunately. I know what they went through on a weekly basis dealing with the trash that live down there. I have seen it myself, its crawling with people just looking to make a fast buck or worse. These people are roaming around the bar areas at 2 a.m.

Its NOT just Marines, are you that ignorant?

Take your white? butt downtown, not just the bar district or the mansion district and have a nice long walk about midnight. Get back to me.

If Saffo ever walked downtown during late hours as he says....

...he would NEVER do it by himself, maybe with a police escort. Anybody could spot those powder soft hands and that hundred dollah haircut from 2 blocks away and know it was him!

Yes! he does have really

Yes! he does have really nice hands

uh check the star news online crime map for downtown

If you take a look at the starnewsonline crime map for downtown, that area has more RED balloons that the sum of the rest of the county red balloons!! So is the mayor saying this is baseless as well?

Saffo: Southern end of a Northbound horse

Face it - your downtown area is about as safe as the woods of Transylvania once the Sun sets. The number of watering holes and the proximity to Da Hood (and the homeless missions within staggering distance) mean that you have an endless supply of thugs, druggies/drunks, and general purpose bums to insure that decent, respectable, law-abiding people give that swinepit a wide berth.

It has nothing to do with the media daring to report events THAT REALLY HAPPENED, EINSTEIN! The media doesn't make stuff up! They shouldn't report a stabbing because it was just a little stabbing?

I simply thank the Lord that when I have to go downtown, I'm armed.

I also thank the Lord that I don't have a brain surgeon like you for mayor.

Saffo is an incompetent bozo

Like the mayor in the Jaws movie , Saffo does not want to acknowledge a chronic problem that has deterred my family and I from visiting the downtown area in the evenings. He is incompetent on many fronts ( i.e defying the facts that a majority of convention centers fail ). He does not want this negative news to further deter convention goers from visiting a doomed convention center. Too many beer joints equal trouble. Who voted for this liberal MORON !

Causey is like him

Like Saffo---Causey is out for self and special interests--he was big spender when sheriff and is a servant of the past---glad he resigned-lets not make mistake of giving another arrogant good ole boy power---he and saffo dont get it and they dont care

I liked...

The reference to the mayor in Jaws. Suits his attitude on most everything! Vote!


Other liberal morons voted in this tool of a mayor. I wouldn't trust him to rule over a Lego village.

i wouldnt

if i was saffo and had as many people hate me like he does i would never go downtown ever or go out in public and i love how he does just like cape fear public ulitiy auth. cry cry its the media fault not mine sounds like saffo got greedy slimmy paws in cfpua. Love the second amendment and the first

Saffo zaps media

I wonder what media the good mayor was referring to? I'm sure it couldn't have been WECT, because lord knows Saffo loves him some Channel 6, and they love him too!

blame media

Since when is a document of arrest or violent indecent report media bias?
you cant sugarcoat facts... If Bill wants blame he should be pointing the finger at the people who issued the permits in the first place... you just cant group all ABC permits in one bag..
ever hear of undercover agents.. armed with surveillance equipment to weed out the problem areas..
When the permits for booze are issued everyone gets their share state and local ... but it is the public that get's shafted.. it is we who have tho pay for the burden of law enforcement/courts /jail all because some idiots cant handle their booze.. I wont even go to downtown Wilmington on a weekend...What a mess it has become...
fights .rapes robberies.assault vandalism..and a slew of Drunk drivers unleashed to the terror of the public every Friday and Saturday night.. It's all public record Bill Saffo
don't kill the messenger

Blame the media for information ??

I say their is not enough media attention,
Put cameras on these punks let's show their
Actions to the public and their families
Step up reporters/ media
As for saffo , vote him down the road
It's our choice who is the voice of the people

Blame Game

What? Our local government officials back-tracking? Naaaaaaa...that never happens! Maybe instead of blaming everyone else, they need to start looking in the mirror. That goes for you Mr. Mayor as well as the Council. The people of this city and county all think you need to get your priorities in line and your heads screwed on straight. The power of voting, such a wonderful thing. And as far as the media shedding some light on the issues? Well number one that's their job, but if you can see your hand in front of your face Mr. Mayor, then it's time for you to go back to real estate full time.