WPD: Crime rates at historic low in Wilmington

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WPD Chief Evangelous going over 2017 annual report (Photo: Kirsten Gutierrez)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Crime rates are at a historic low while the opioid epidemic continues to rise, that is how Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous is describing the department’s 2017 annual report.

Evangelous said overall crime is down 8 percent and compared to this time last year, down even more at 13 percent. 

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“Overall crime is down from a high of about 8,600 Part I crimes. We actually broke into 4,900 category for the first time in decades,” Evangelous said.

Part I crimes which include robbery, rape, assault, and larceny are hitting a historic low.

“Crime is definitely trending in the right direction,” Sting Center Director, Malcolm Phelps said. “There’s a lot of positive things happening in Wilmington.”

While overall crime is down, Evangelous said they had three more homicides than they did in 2016.

A large reason for the recent decrease in crime, WPD’s Sting Center. WPD says they have seen a 60 percent increase from people using Text-a-Tip.

“The sting center is able to monitor our Text-a-Tip program in real time as opposed previously we didn’t have the immediate response,” Phelps said. “That immediate response and action by officers has allowed a increase in productivity.”

Evangelous said it is all thanks to teamwork between the department and the community.

“It supports the whole notion that relationships that we’re building in our community, with our community, are paying off. Because people are talking to us,” Evangelous said. “People are sending these tips in and we’re solving crimes.”

A large issue that is only getting worse, the opioid epidemic. WPD responded to 560 overdose calls and made nearly 1,000 drug arrests in 2017.

“So we’ve gone from arresting them to administering lifesaving drugs to them,” Evangelous said. “Who would have thought policing would migrate to that?”

It is a crisis that is growing both locally and nationally.

“58,000 in the Vietnam War. In all the years though the Vietnam War. And in one year we’ve lost 64,000 people. That is an epidemic,” Evangelous said.

Evangelous said while 2017 was an overall good year, they can always do better.

For 2018, Evangelous said he wants to increase efforts to battle the opioid epidemic, monitor gangs in the area, and continue to keep crime rates down.