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Cape Fear Serpentarium
Police arrived to the scene of a homicide, where a man was shot on May 13, 2017. (Photo: Basil John/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Historically low. That’s what Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous is calling Wilmington crime statistics so far this year.

At Monday’s city council agenda briefing, Chief Evangelous said the city has seen a 13 percent drop in violent crimes since the same time last year and a 15 percent drop in property crimes.

Evangelous says if these statistics continue, the city is on track to have the lowest numbers since they started keeping records in the 1960s.

The biggest difference however is a 160 percent increase in murder, something he attributes to domestic violence.

“The one negative in the crime statistics are our homicides, our murders, and that is we’ve had 13 to date, 5 of which are domestic violence related. Last year 8 of our homicides were gang related,” Chief Evangelous said. “This year there’s only 2. So we’ve got some success working on the gang piece of it, but we’ve got work to do now on the domestic violence piece of it.”

In 12 of the 13 homicides committed so far this year, the suspects and victims knew each other. Domestic violence assaults are trending upward. WPD says they have continued to rise for the past 12 years, surpassing other assault totals.

Evangelous says domestic violence will now be an additional focus of the department. The WPD plans to work with local Domestic Violence Agency to create a public awareness campaign.

The WPD also created Port City Super Girls to address domestic violence issues and gang intervention for girls 12 to 18 years of age.

The plan is to create a working group to establish collaborative response to growing domestic violence concerns. The group will consist of members from Domestic Violence Shelter & Services, District Attorney’s Office, Social Service, NHRMC, UNCW, Health Department, and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.

In March, Shantell Williams was shot and killed in broad daylight on Dock Street. Her ex-boyfriend, Joseph Corbett, III, is charged with her murder.

The following month, Catherine Ballard was shot in the parking lot of Independence Mall. Traneta Campbell, 19, is charged with Ballard’s murder. Ballard’s family members say it stemmed from an argument over a man. That man, Darius Nelson, is charged with accessory after the fact.

Also in April, a mother and daughter from Wilmington were killed and their bodies burned in a shed in Columbus County. An investigation revealed Eva Jones and Tiffany Cartwright were killed by Jones’s son-in-law, Jeffrey Harmon. He shot and killed himself after their murder.

In May, Cape Fear Serpentarium owner Dean Ripa was shot and killed in the apartment above the serpentarium. His wife, Regina, is charged with his murder.

On June 30, Ashley Bell died at an apartment on Dupree Drive. Police say it was a domestic dispute that turned deadly. Mark Aiena is charged with that crime.

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