WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington Police are investigating 11 crimes against men in the downtown area that could have began as far back as January 2018, with some of the men also victims of a sexual assault.
Wilmington Police released those new details about the crimes on Wednesday afternoon, two days after they initially announced they were investigating assaults near downtown bars.
Police say the challenge with investigating these assaults is that several of the initial reports came in listed as a misdemeanor crimes with limited information such as breaking and entering and larceny from a person.
Police say the date and time of the crimes was also sporadic. There was a four month lag time between some incidents, and crime scene locations and other details are limited due to the condition of the victims at the time the incidents happened.
Police say they have now identified four victims who may have been sexually assaulted. Seven of the victims were military personnel.
Police have increased patrols in the downtown area. Police say they have actively been working with state and federal partners to conduct this investigation.
People who drink in public establishments are encouraged to exercise caution, travel in groups, don’t leave drinks unattended, don’t drink and drive and never leave a bar with a stranger.
“I think it’s kind of strange to be honest with you,” said Wilmington resident Marc Owes. “The business owners down here don’t know anything about it, but yet the cops do? It kind of makes you think ‘what’s going on?’ But it’s horrible that something like this is happening in this town. It makes you not want to come downtown these days.”
WWAY requested the incident reports related to these crimes, but police say they are temporarily withholding the public copies of these reports at this time.
So could there be more victims out there? Chelsea Croom, Rape Crisis Center Supervisor with Coastal Horizons, says men report sexual assault substantially less than women do.
“We’ve got this super, hyper-masculinized idea of men, and so I think that that leads to men feeling as though if they were to report or when they do report, they’re going to be judged and thought of as less than,” Croom said.
Some downtown Wilmington business owners and others in the community were in the dark that assaults were taking place.
“We haven’t been able to get any details as far exactly what happened,” Waterline Brewing Company Co-owner Mark Mueller said. “When it happened.”
“In my 20 plus years downtown, I’ve never seen or experience anything of a violent nature other than the occasional weekend fights,” said Greg Matheson, mixologist at Tails Piano Bar and Food and Beverage Manager at City Club.
While Wilmington Police are encouraging people to be cautious, Croom warns against victim-blaming.
“We don’t ever want to misguide anyone and make them think that there’s something they can do to prevent this from happening to them, because at the end of the day it’s going to happen anyway,” she said.
Croom says Coastal Horizons is starting a support group for male sexual assault survivors. If you’d like to attend, the first meeting will be November 6, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at 2250 Shipyard Blvd, Suite #15. You can call 910-392-7185 for more information.
If you have any information about assaults in the downtown area call the Wilmington Police Department at (910) 343-3609 or use Text-a-Tip or call Crime Stoppers at (800) 531-9845.
WWAY has also reached out to Camp Lejeune to see if any of the victims are Marines and whether they are investigating.