A friend of mine that owns a few restaurants in Wilmington said downtown business owners are freaking out that a murder at the Riverfront, Trolley Square, or Lower Market will be the tipping point in scaring off suburban business. Wilmington’s always been a difficult destination for the outlying communities, but areas where business is flourishing has been generally safe.
A man stabbed, and then another shot 3 times in the chest on Sunday afternoon, just a few blocks away from the Riverfront restaurants and cultural attractions, makes violence in these areas a scary possibility. While I-95 separates the area from Hedgeville, it is hardly a perimeter fence, and the reality is that Hedgeville and Browntown haven’t seen the gentrification that happened on the other side of the freeway.
Like most of you, I think the chances of being murdered in downtown Wilmington are slim to none. I wanted to make myself feel better and looked at one of those “odds of dying” type of charts.
It didn’t make me feel any better.
I always think my odds of falling down the steps are so much greater than the more sensational ways to go, like say being hit by lightning or being shot.
Falling 1 in 218
Hit by lightning 1 in 79,746
So far so good…
Firearm assault 1 in 318! Whoa.
I know these kind of statistics are hardly reliable and always skew depending on human risk factor, but I bet if I lived on the Hedgeville side of I-95, those would be good odds.
Wilmington’s mayor, Jim Baker, has taken a lot of heat for not somehow solving all the shootings, and in a recent interview he was criticized for not sending out more police, but his response was right on the money: these problems are WAY bigger than the police. As the population grows there will be more violent people on the streets, and more violence, count on it.
Anybody that knows about Weed and Seed (and the funding it needs) knows that you can have a Safe Streets program, but it’s beholden to politics and money that isn’t always around, and in the bigger picture, the problems are never addressed. A 2005 internal review by the state concluded that drug hot spots could be eliminated, but that just meant pushing them a few blocks away. That means that even when the communities and police know where the trouble is, and they have the funding and the green light to do something, they can push it a few blocks away. When people talk about successful programs in other states (as at least one mayoral candidate likes to), they are talking about the same band-aid approach with the police as the tip of a small spear.
I think the police, or National Guard, or more cameras, or whatever can have an impact, but unless you want to create an armed camp, this approach will never work either. Look at the backlash in New York with the stop and frisks – the affected communities want an end to the violence, but if the policing gets too intrusive there is a backlash, which breaks down the trust between the police and communities.
And I don’t think liberal Great Society programs can fix this, because this might be the right approach, but isn’t drastic enough. There needs to be so much money and commitment to address ailing urban neighborhoods, it is hard to see it ever turning around. A 9/11 response is needed. It would take Syrian-sized massacres to get anyone’s attention. Until then, “be the change you want to see” is about as good as it gets.